How Our Arts Centres Are Reshaping Communities

Providing quality, affordable housing for key workers, creatives, and young professionals has always been integral to our business model. It gives us enormous pride and purpose in what we do. However, there are also a huge number of other unused buildings in the capital, which, for a variety of reasons, cannot be modified for dwelling purposes.

When we encounter vacant buildings that aren’t suitable for living in, we don’t just move on. Instead of allowing these spaces to go to waste or become eyesores in the community, we work with the owners to convert them into creative hubs where artists can work – without suffering the astronomical rents that more conventional options demand.

At LOWE, we feel it’s essential to provide affordable studio space to rescue the diminishing art scene. Because we can use buildings that are not suitable as living spaces and mitigate the business rates (through our partnership with charity SET), we offer a fantastic and unique solution that benefits artists and property owners alike.

Charitable Occupation for Business Rates Relief

There are tens of thousands of vacant properties in London, equating to billions of pounds worth of housing, sitting empty. While not all can be used for property guardianship, we want to ensure that even those not deemed habitable can still be used for a positive purpose.

Turning an unoccupied building into an arts centre qualifies it for charitable occupation. This means owners can enjoy a minimum of 80% business rate relief. This equates to a massive saving that’s hugely beneficial to our clients. Not only do they feel the cost-saving benefit, but they can also feel great about contributing to the local community by reviving the arts and cultural scene and helping to ensure talented artists have an affordable place to work.

Keeping our Artists in the Capital

The astronomical rents in London are forcing our talented artists to leave the capital. At LOWE we feel a deep responsibility to provide an alternative. Losing artists due to high rental prices is a huge problem. Our artists attract tourism, boost communities, and inject the city with colour and vibrancy. Without them, there is no doubt that London would look and feel very different. That’s why we’re dedicated to finding usable spaces where artists can work productively, breathe life into the local community, bring people together and feel secure in the knowledge that they can continue to do what they love and still pay the bills.

Working with charitable organisations and arts charities to transform disused buildings into usable creative spaces has proven a worthwhile endeavour. Not only do our clients love to have their buildings put to good use, but doing so is hugely beneficial for artists who would be otherwise completely priced out, and people in the local communities welcome it too.

Our Work So Far

We’ve partnered with charities who share our passion for preserving the arts and keeping artistic talent within the city. London has a proud cultural history and a reputation as one of the most diverse, cutting edge and exciting places to discover the arts on the planet. By providing artists with spaces to work, we keep our talent where it should be, and so the cultural landscape of London remains vibrant and thriving.

Our Woolwich Arts Centre

Two former council-owned office blocks provided 140,000sq. ft, in which we created individual artist studios on every floor. We partnered with community charity SET, providing them with an interest-free loan to help with set-up costs. We also promoted the property to hundreds of local artists and community groups, and appointed building security and a reception team to look after the property.

Peckham Community Hall

Working with SET, we have transformed Peckham’s old community hall into a lively, bustling arts exhibition venue. Creating a location for arts events can bring the community together, inject culture into the area, encourage visitors, and provide those much-needed low-cost spaces for artists to tap into their creative genius!

Our Ealing Studios

Formerly part of a housing association, before LOWE stepped in, this building was a vacant site in the middle of the neighbourhood that attracted squatters and anti-social behaviour.

Through our renovations this vacant property has been transformed into a vibrant cultural hub. At the same time we reduced the empty rates bill by 80% for the building owner, Luxgrove, who were delighted with the results, saying:

“When we acquired the site, we were keen to prioritise social value for the wider community and leave a positive impact. Partnering with LOWE was a great fit for Luxgrove, as with their work with arts charity SET, it has meant that we are able to support local artists and bring creative meaningful use to this part of the Broadway. This project has been incredibly rewarding, and on regular site visits we see the site busy with artistic activity. We are proud that our partnership has contributed positively to the existing character of the area.”

By reviving the landscape of the space and providing well-appointed, safe, and functional studios for artists, we were able to create a positive social impact, for the individual artists and resulting in a positive ripple effect upon the wider community too. Our current studio manager for the property has an even more special connection, as his mother used to work there when it was part of the housing association!

What Does the Future Look Like for LOWE and Charitable Occupation?

We plan to continue working with property owners and charities to take on more projects like the ones above. By doing so we breathe new life into disused and derelict buildings, create affordable spaces for creatives and make positive changes in local communities.

Want to find out more about our work? Are you a property owner and would like more information about our services? Just contact our friendly team to see how we can help you best.