By Mike Pentelow
The new £1.5 million Fitzrovia Community Centre in Foley Street is due to open this spring.
It takes up a corner of the ground floor and basement of John Astor House, owned by University College London Hospital (UCLH). Rooms are available for hire for a variety of community projects.
The £1.5 million was provided by the UCLH through an agreement with Camden Council to give Fitzrovia a new community centre in return for permission to build the new hospital on Euston Road. So although geographically in Westminster the new centre comes under the jurisdiction of Camden, to whom it is leased by the UCLH Trust.
The project co-ordinator, Helena Roden, is optimistic about the opportunities afforded by the new centre, although recognising it is “a most difficult time to set up such an enterprise with funding in both Camden and Westminster being reviewed.” The centre has to “stand on its own feet financially so modest charges for room hire have to be made, to contribute to the upkeep of such a valuable space,” she added.
The office and interview room which the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association (FNA) is considering moving into, will amount to less space than it currently has in Tottenham Street, but says Helena, it could have access to other project spaces, and it would make it easier to collaborate with other projects.
“We are very keen to retain the FNA’s work with older people, its Bengali women’s art projects, and its advice service, for which there will be more privacy than at present,” she added.
There is also a courtyard which Helena thinks “could be a proper garden involving lots of different people.” The campaign for allotments on the Middlesex Hospital site “was very popular with all ages and ethnicities,” she recalled. “Lots of climbing plants could be grown here and it could be a quiet green space where people could garden or just read.” There will also be a shed which could be used for storing plants and other materials.
There are various sized rooms which “could be used for a film club or for dancing lessons,” continued Helena, “but we hope local people come up with their own ideas.”
Overall the aim is for it to be multi-use — hosting community as well as business projects. “This is a model that lots of community centres now use to derive income,” she explained. This could mean community health projects, such as healthy eating, drop-in play sessions for the under-5s, mixed with board meetings, and public consultation exercises.
There are showers, a stainless steel kitchen, tea making facilities, toilets (including two with disabled access), and storage spaces, in addition to the rooms.
The architect, Jim Monahan, has added a completely new stairwell to the back of the centre with coloured glass panels, providing extra daylight and a view into the courtyard.
“He has used top quality materials and made the whole building look cared for. The builders, Kind & Co, have also done an excellent job,” concluded Helena.