View of Central Parade from the High Street. Credit: Dirk Lindner

Central Parade is an iconic 1950’s Grade II listed building in the heart of Walthamstow. Find out how disused ground floor spaces were lovingly refurbished on a small budget and within a short timeline to create a new thriving cultural hub.

Central Parade is a council-owned, listed building in a pivotal location at the end of Walthamstow Market. From the outset, London Borough of Waltham Forest and the Greater London Authority (GLA) both understood the positive regeneration role that the site could play in delivering social and economic value to local residents. Working with Meanwhile Space, they developed the brief for a temporary cultural and enterprise hub and later brought in Gort Scott to design and deliver the project.

The aim of the meanwhile enterprise hub was to provide much needed co-working and incubator space for local entrepreneurs, boosting the local economy and paving the way for a longer-term development. A cultural programme would also be provided within a central café and event space.

There was a great opportunity to forge a strong identity for the enterprise hub based on the remarkable existing building. Critical challenges included delivering lasting improvements to a listed building on a tight budget and working to an extremely short timeline (ten months from inception to completion on site).

Central Parade Communal cafe Gort Scott
Communal café and event space at the heart of the enterprise hub. Credit: Gort Scott

Lessons learned

  1. Unite around a clear brief. With Central Parade the project was seen as politically important, with buy-in from the highest levels of all three of the organisations involved: Waltham Forest, the GLA, and Meanwhile Space. The client body was made up of one representative from each stakeholder with the prerogative to make decisive decisions. A clear brief, strong governance, and speed of decision-making were essential in order to deliver this successful project at pace.
  2. Align the possibilities of the existing space with the design brief. The café and exhibition space were given a visible street frontage, while two higher-yield, street-facing shop units helped to subsidise the incubator space. Ceilings, flooring, and boxings were stripped back to maximise the amount of space available and reveal the existing building. Gort Scott also worked with graphic designers Polimekanos to create a unique visual identity for Central Parade.
  3. For the long-term success of the project, the engagement of an anchor café tenant was crucial. It was important to find a tenant within the local business start-up community that was committed to hosting cultural and community events. Meanwhile Space worked to identify this anchor tenant as early as possible so that Gort Scott could incorporate their specific technical and servicing requirements. This cost was split with the tenant as part of their tenancy agreement.
  4. One of the benefits of working within an existing building is the ability to strategically decide what to keep and re-use, saving money and time, as well as reducing the carbon impact of the project. For Central Parade, existing building services were retained as far as possible. In the communal café for example, carpets were peeled off to expose the original concrete screed floor as a deliberate feature of the space.
  5. Keep the procurement process flexible. In order to meet the tight deadlines of the project, the Council’s framework contractor was brought on site to start the strip-out works while the rest of the project was still being detailed. This process was supervised by the architects and M&E consultants. Gort Scott also used the ‘Artists and Tradesmen’ clause to appoint a local sign-painter for the main sign. Without a subcontractor to deliver a stencil floor painting, the architects undertook this task themselves. This flexibility in the procurement process, with the ability to remove parts of the scope and bring in specialist subcontractors, improved the end build quality and maximised local economic benefits.
DL GSA WCP 1085 online
Credit: Dirk Lindner

Project details

  • Budget: £450,000
  • Timeline: October 2015 – July 2016 (10 months)


  • Susie Hyden, Associate Director, Gort Scott

Key stakeholders

  • Emily Berwyn, Meanwhile Space
  • Sarah Considine, Greater London Authority
  • Susie Hyden, Gort Scott
  • Zoe Sellers, London Borough of Waltham Forest


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