Camden market, the end of an era
Camden Town used to be the place in London where everything goes. Sex, drugs and rock and roll was the motto and many legendary musicians such as Bob Dylan, the Pink Floyd and Amy Winehouse have lived there and performed in the neighbourhood’s famous music venues. It is also the home of Punk and alternative culture, creative fashion as wall as the LGBT community.
The area is famous for it’s street markets that are said to attract 28 millions tourists a year. It is a labyrinth of little stalls and shops selling everything from vintage clothes and antics to crazy gadgets and exotic food. The streets of this vibrant area are always busy with a multicultural crowd, here for the shopping or the exciting nightlife.
Since the 1960’s, Camden is experiencing major changes and a wave of gentrification is hitting the neighbourhood. But more drastic changes are ahead since Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi’s company, Market Tech, bought four of the prime locations of Camden market in 2014 and is determined to transform Camden market by market.
Video credit: Victoire Bret
Teddy Sagi is an Israeli born, London based businessman. His business career had a rocky start; In 1996 in Tel Aviv he was sentenced to nine months of jail time for fraud and bribery. But he is now the co-founder of PlayTech, a FTSE 250 gambling software and service company and the majority shareholder of Market Tech Holdings, the new owner of Camden market. In April 2015 Forbes magazine estimated the net worth of the new Camden king at $3.3 billions. His Camden real estate empire includes Camden market as well as the Barfly Club, the Open University building and a portion of the High Street.
Camden market is actually composed of six different locations. Sagi now owns the Lock market by regent canal, the stables market, Union Street (also known as the green market on the high street) and the Lock village or canal market. Leaving only the music venue The Electric Ballroom and the small Inverness Street market, in peace.
A map of Camden market. Picture credit: The Ukister
The concern is growing amongst the stallholders and traders of the markets, as Market Tech stays very vague about its plans for their formerly independent workspace. They don’t know when the development is going to start, what will happen to their businesses and who to turn to to get help and answers. Traders are afraid to talk to the press or to anybody else about this issue in fear of having troubles with their new landowner and loosing their stalls.
In response to the trader’s grievances, Market Tech issued a statement for a previous article in the guardian in November 2016, assuring that it’s market manager enjoys a “regular and positive dialogue with the traders” and that the company is “fully committed to building and maintaining Camden’s rich heritage and unique markets, to develop a vibrant and creative atmosphere and a place for independents, start-ups and small businesses to grow”.
But the changes have already begun to affect trader’s businesses as the stallholders of the canal market lost their jobs when it closed in early 2015. Market Tech tore down the site to start the development of The Hawley Wharf.
Development in progress on the site of the former Canal market. photo credit: Victoire Bret
The Hawley Wharf development is a mixed-use scheme. By 2018, Market tech project to convert the 580 000 square foot canal area into offices, a new local primary school, a cinema, 195 residential unit, shops and a new food market.
The Hawley Wharf project. Photo credit: Market Tech
The Lock market also has its faith sealed by Market Tech. It is set to have a £20 million makeover, transforming the legendary building into new retails and offices units as well as a new bridge to facilitate the access from the high street.
The Green market on the High street is destined to become a boutique hotel. The open-air street market will be demolished and replaced by a two-storey market building next to the new hotel.
Camden Green Market ( Union Street). Photo credit: The power of travel
As for the stables market, the plan is not clear yet. Sagi bought this part of the market from fellow Israeli and previous owner, Eliezer “Bebo” Kobo, for £400 millions in 2014. The stables are one of the most iconic parts of the market. Located in the historical Pickfords stables and horse hospital it is the home of many shop and stalls. The traders in the stables are in a precarious situation. They rent the stalls on a weekly basis and with the new ownership, the rents are increasing fast and they can be easily evicted when Market Tech is ready to start the development.
Vintage shop in Camden stables market. Photo credit: Victoire Bret
Herman Tribelnig is in charge of the Camden Town Urban Design Improvement Society. When asked about the impact of the new ownership on the market traders he replied, “they are already very few to survive and never last long because of the extremely high weekly rent charged for their small patch of retail land”.
Even if the situation is very problematic for the traders, Tribelnig, as part of the Camden community, highlighted some positive outcomes of the new developments in the area. “The large building operations on the East part of the High Street, along the canal and on both side of the railway viaduct give employment opportunities for local people and construction companies. The increase of the value of the premises will also boost the incomes of Camden council and can be put to good use to improve the quality of life in the area.”