St George’s Works office project brings back start-up soul to former Norwich shoe factory
- Credit: Giff Mulley
It was once a traditional factory producing thousands of shoes a year – but now a city centre site is finding its feet as home to a different kind of industry.
St George's Works has become a hub for more than 50 start-ups and small businesses, with many plying their trade in the creative or technology sectors.
Along with nearby St Mary's Works the site is owned by Norwich and London-based developer The Shoe Quarter, which plans to regenerate the sites for mixed commercial, residential and leisure use. Although St Mary's Works will be developed first, the existing buildings at St George's Works still have a role to play initially.
'The initial thought was to redevelop both sites, St Mary's and St George's, at the same time,' said Marielle van Deutekom, project and marketing coordinator. 'But we took a step back, and St George's has become a testbed for what Norwich needs in terms of office space, how the building is used, how much technology plays a part in it, and so on.'
Regular feedback from tenants at St George's Works will be fed back to the designers working on St Mary's Works.
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The St George's Works site includes four self-contained buildings: 49 and 51 Colegate, which stand on the site of the former SL Witton, and later Norvic, shoe factory, and Seymour House and Lion House in Muspole Street. Of these, the principal location is 51 Colegate, which has been set up as a flexible space including lockable offices and conference rooms, as well as open co-working, meeting and event spaces and even a roof terrace.
The building is currently home to 36 companies, ranging from one and two-person microbusinesses to 26-strong software firm Time4Advice, the largest tenant.
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The Shoe Quarter said a focus on smaller, more agile enterprises was backed up by the emphasis on building a sense of community among the tenants.
There is a shower for runners and cyclists, an espresso machine in the lobby for impromptu meetings, and tenant Norfolk Network holds regular daytime and evening events on site.
Stephen Ong, creative director and founder of animation studio Make it Move was one of the first tenants, arriving in November 2016. He said: 'It's pretty cool here, and while we mainly had clients in London at first, we now also work with local clients.'