The full story behind the creation of Gillett Square spans 25 years of the incremental development of the Bradbury and Gillett Street area of Dalston by HCD and others.
In 1993 HCD commissioned a co-operative of builders and architects Collective Building Design to produce the first sketches of a new town square in Gillett Street. In 1997 HCD worked with Groundwork East London and Hackney Council’s planning department on a Dalston Town Centre area feasibility study by Stock Woolstencroft. This led, in 1998, after several local public consultations, to Hackney Council’s Regeneration Committee’s designation of the Gillett Street car park as the future town square for Dalston.
In 1999 HCD built ten market pod kiosks with HawkinsBrown along the south side of the car park, adding substance to the idea of a new town square here. This won the Design Week Award for 2000 and a RIBA small building award.
HCD then formulated a project to redevelop the adjacent derelict factory premises at 11 Gillett Street to create the Dalston Culture House which was completed in February 2005. These works and plans engaged the interest of developers Macdonald Egan, who had recently purchased the decaying Stamford Works premises occupying the north side the Gillett Street. They appointed HawkinsBrown to develop outline proposals for this site.
This led in January 2001 to the formation of the Gillett Square Partnership as the development agency for Gillett Square. The partnership comprised Groundwork East London; The Vortex Jazz Club; London Borough of Hackney Planning, Leisure and Property Directorates; MacDonald Egan; Greater London Authority's Architecture and Urbanism Unit and HawkinsBrown.
Making the Square
Over the next two years area surveys, consultation within this group and with the local community were undertaken, leading to the production of outline plans for the new square. In 2003 Gillett Square was adopted as one of Mayor Livingstone’s new urban spaces for London, which led to the involvement of the GLA's Architecture and Urbanism Unit in the Gillett Square partnership. At the same time Macdonald Egan's planning application for a major mixed development on the north side of the square was approved. This included the proposal to house a new public library for Dalston on the ground floor. A successful application was then made to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for further capital funding to add to Groundwork’s funding for the square. The partnership’s tender for the detailed design was won by Whitelaw Turkington.
Outline plans for the square were developed in the context of further public consultations and events organized by HCD and Groundwork through their local networks, membership of the Local Strategic Partnership and the Neighbourhood Forum. The plans for the square were well publicized in articles in the local press. The planning application for the square, in the name of the Gillett Square Partnership, was approved by LBH full planning committee in 2005, with no objections from the public.
The award of the contract for the square, managed by LBH, was made to Fitzpatricks PLC in January 2006. The works proceeded throughout 2006, with regular meetings of the Gillett Square Partnership, considering detailed design, logistics and local liaison. To assist local traders whose businesses were adversely affected by the impact of these works, HCD brokered a package of support measures from all partnership members, including rent and rates relief as well as marketing and publicity initiatives which were delivered by HCD throughout 2006.
In November 2006 Gillett Square was opened as the first of the London Mayor’s programme of 100 new public spaces for London.