It’s hip to be a square.
Simon recently took an apartment in the former Harley’s Jam factory in Bermondsey which was converted into apartments in the early 2000s and still looks brilliant today. The development kicked off a show but steady transformation of the surrounding area with the southernmost section of Tower Bridge Road now home to a new wave of contemporary retailer. When The Jam Factory was launched, there wasn’t really a single local shop that reflected the lifestyle promise of the 200 new lofts, penthouses and live/work units that are abhor to land. In fact, it took two purchasers of apartments at the development to get things going by opening a coffee bar-cum-gallery, SoBo, (which is still going strong) and a brilliant gastro pub, named The Hartley. Both were my locals when I lived around the corner in the Alaska Buildings. Alas The Hartley succumbed to the financial crisis, but a ball had been set in motion and things have continued to improve. The redevelopment of Bermondsey Square brought more apartments, a local cinema, boutique hotel, restaurant space and street food trucks and this had been followed by two more coffee houses – Hej on the square itself, and the obligatory cyclist’s version, Machine, on Tower Bridge Road. Other additions to the evolving scene include Kas & Ros Jewellery, Bespoke & Bound bookbinders, Tatu Society tattoo parlour, Modern Folk craft emporium, the gorgeous new Alex Monroe jewellery workshop building, Le Chevalier wine bar, and Cold Mountain kit, London’s only independent, high street specialist climbing shop. Of course, the irrefutable confirmation that somewhere has “made it” is when the local public toilets get converted into something groovy, a milestone courteously met by the Bermondsey Arts Club cocktail bar. Along with continued mixed-use development along Tower Bridge Road and Grange Road that has brought thousands of new residents, this lively corner of Bermondsey is no longer ‘the arse end’ of SE1, but a destination to live, work and visit.