Interview: Simon Baston of Loft Co.Interviews
To start, could you tell us a bit about how Loft-Co started?
Loft-Co is a 20-year project in reality to help understand and now build new socioeconomic ecosystems, based on 24/7 sustainable models where people can live, work and play at sustainable and affordable levels.
What is the vision for Loft-Co?
The vision of Loft-Co is to help SME incubators grow and to create more cohesive communities also be part of the growth structure of areas at the very beginning of regeneration.
You regenerate historic buildings and transform them into modern spaces. Is it tough to strike a balance between preservation and innovation in these projects?
It’s very tough to strike that balance between preservation and innovation in these projects. The simple model we follow, if you don’t try and change the roof, windows, floor heights thus, by default original characters are all kept and you build with this in mind instead of, letting the “tail wag the dog” where you are trying to make a building convert to something that you perceive should be in the 21st Century as opposed to using the building to work into the 21st Century as it is.
Within your spaces, how are you fostering community among your members?
One example is, we’re building the first new urban high street in the UK in Barry. This is a complex mix-usage scheme that has apartments, a hotel, outdoor cinema, gym farmers market, converted railway carriages, shipping container village etc. all in one place next to a train station, in the centre of Barry.
This by default creates a community as everything we let is low cost on short term leases with all businesses being on a complimentary level. Also, we provide a community space with two shipping containers for theatre, comedy club etc. outdoor cinema, gym etc. Basically, we’re trying to create a sense of a place for the community which we believe is now pushing away the out of town retail experience and wanting to “reconnect”.
What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in running your spaces?
The biggest challenge is definitely trying to make it work financially especially in the short term and secondly, is local authorities and governments buying into the model. Although, they along with funders are changing very quickly in terms of realising the tsunami of change with regards to the independent movement.
How is Coherent helping you to manage things?
Coherent is managing the building well for us at Cardiff Bay station in terms of letting the business and managing the payments structure and at present seems to be working fine. Coherent allows our tenants to enter the building and their office 24/7 via a phone app. This works well as it allows the tenants to have full flexibility in terms of their working hours.
What’s next for LoftCo.? Any exciting plans coming up?
Loft-Co next plans to convert Newport Market which is around about 120,000- 130,000 sq. ft of space, into a huge regenerative project again on a 24/7 basis with a hotel, apartments, foot hall, food market, leisure wing, tech hub, a significant amount of break office to facilitate the tech hub etc. This is next to a train station which is in a highly sustainable area and we think Newport with a huge catchment area is ideally placed for this.
Many thanks to Simon for the answers, and Rochelle for organising.
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For more info, visit their website – https://loftco.net/