Regeneration project: North Finchley
Barnet is getting just over £1m from the Mayor’s Outer London Fund and £380k from Barnet Council to improve North Finchley’s cultural offer, boost trade and renew important outdoor spaces. Proposals include signposting the great assets North Finchley has to offer, such as the community arts centre - artsdepot. Investment is also being used to bring empty shop units in the Grand Arcade back to life, with physical improvements to the arcade and the activation of three units. North Finchley is also hosting a series of events and activities to draw visitors to the town centre and get more locals back onto the streets.
The Grand Arcade is a small but charming 1930s shopping arcade in North Finchley that has begun to appear unloved. Despite its rich historical character, with original tiling and art deco shop fronts, many units have stood empty. Made possible by a grant to the industrious and creative North Finchley Town Team (NFTT), three units will be reopened, each with a different theme: community, business and culture. The community space will be a place for public consultations, events and activities, while the business unit will be used to support local start-ups with workshops and talks, and access to a ‘mini-arcade’ from which to sell goods. The culture space, in collaboration with the Museum of Domestic Architecture, will host a gallery show a month and complementary events to entice visitors.
In the run up to London 2012, North Finchley hosted a free performance of Bells, an impressive piece of aerial theatre and dance by Theater Tol and Akademi. This show set the scene for a series of regular events the North Finchley Town Team has established for the area. The first town team event was a community arts festival, which saw local artists exhibiting their work in shop windows and a craft market in the Grand Arcade. An annual Christmas festival, Tally Ho Ho Ho has also been set up, named after the historic Tally Ho Corner.
A number of important public spaces in North Finchley that are currently failing to reach their potential are being remodeled by muf architecture/art. The space around the entrance to artsdepot is often deserted, in part due to its unfortunate orientation that blocks light and creates a wind-tunnel effect. The space is being de-cluttered, planted with mature tulip trees and given new lighting and seating in a sheltered spot. Similar improvements are also being made to Tally Ho Corner, the Lodge Lane Market area and the North Finchley Library forecourt. Specially designed signage is being added in strategic locations across the town centre, including several playable wayfinding elements, miniature versions of the library, a market stall and the lost Gaumont Cinema.
The Grand Arcade is being renovated in support of the new activities planned within it. This includes new exterior signs and lighting to make the entrance more visible. Inside, a new floor surface inspired by the Museum of Domestic Architecture archive, lighting, painting and cleaned roof-lights, will all help to make it a more pleasant place to visit. New signage for artsdepot, designed by Objectif, borrows from the style of the old Gaumont Cinema which used to sit on this spot. The historical theme continues with a projection onto artsdeport façade featuring a frieze from the old cinema, and handcrafted lettering for the North Finchley Library.
Expert business consultancy Retail Revival has been commissioned to deliver a series of events in North Finchley to boost local business. In October 2013, restaurant Meze Meze hosted the secret postcard event as part of the Community Arts Festival. Over 45 people attended to design postcards that went into a secret postcard sale. Coffee Republic hosted a comedy night for 65 customers and a digital graffiti wall attracted a further 200. The café now provides a free meeting space for the local business and economy group - one of a series of local events that are helping to improve trade.
The North Finchley Town Team is an independent group of local residents and traders set up by Retail Revival through the Outer London Fund. Members of the team are from a diverse range of backgrounds, united in making the area a better place to live and work. Importantly, the group is creating a legacy that will last beyond the initial investment. A modest budget of £16,000 was made available to the Town Team to run the Community Arts Festival and the 2013 Christmas festival, enabling the development of lasting skills. The NFTT is also being granted £60,000 to activate three units within the Grand Arcade for one year.
Preparing for change
A long-term proposal that will vastly improve the roads and public spaces in North Finchley has been put together by Civic Engineers. Initial designs suggest undoing the gyratory road system, turning Ballards Lane into a local route and pedestrian friendly area. The council is modelling the feasibility of this scheme and exploring ways to fund this ambitious project.
Partners/client: LB Barnet
Funding: Mayor of London £1m, LB Barnet £380,000