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Inspired Series: Justin Owens, property developer and co-founder of The Croydon Creative

Croydon Creative - Justin Owens

Justin Owens, born and bred in Croydon, set up The Croydon Creative and event brand ‘Lost Format Society’ with school friends Mark and Farouk to reinvigorate the entertainment scene in Croydon. After a successful two years hosting pop-up events, roof top cinema bars, world food markets and music events – Lost Format Society is set to return with a bang. We caught up with Justin to hear about his story and The Croydon Creative’s vision for the future.

As winner of the best new business at the Croydon Business Excellence Awards last year, tell us what The Croydon Creative does and what you think has been the key to your success?

We are a privately funded business focused on providing a ‘meanwhile’ use for neglected land and property within the town centre. We provide a space for people of all ages to socialise and enjoy a variety of activities including rooftop cinema, rooftop yoga, music events and a community garden. We also create employment opportunities whilst giving positive PR to Croydon. Lost Format Society stepped away from the traditional bar offering as we recognised that there is an appetite for something new and interesting. As we are all from Croydon, I think the key to our success is that we are very passionate about Croydon and want it to succeed, which I think is reflected in the delivery of our projects.

What’s next for you and The Croydon Creative?

We are looking to bring back Lost Format Society later this year, and are currently in discussions over our new location. We will be expanding on what we’ve done over the last two years, bringing a wider variety of entertainment and events, whilst building on what’s been popular before. We think it’s important to improve year on year to ensure what we are doing continues to be innovative and fresh.

What was it that sparked your interest in property?

My father was a developer and he encouraged me to work in the same line of business and so I started Silverleaf 14 years ago. Having a business where you can help people, improve the borough and the townscape of where you live, and add something to the community you are part of gives you that additional element of job satisfaction. Historically, I used to manage artists and run events – there’s a certain element of creativity in that which helps in property. To be a successful developer I believe you have to think outside the box and deliver something unique. Making your developments stand out in a busy marketplace goes a long way with buyers.

There’s a housing crisis, Brexit on the horizon and a possible trade deal with Trump.  How do you see this influencing the housing market over the next 24 months?

There are certainly challenges including how people perceive the housing market and ensuring they have confidence in it moving forward. We need to reassure people that the current financial climate isn’t going to have a dramatic effect like in 2008-9. A key consideration is affordability and we need to ensure there is continued delivery of housing of all types. Whilst we are in an unprecedented political climate, the general feedback from the market is that ’life goes on’ – there doesn’t appear to be any long-term impact from Brexit or Trump at this time. Has it changed what we do? It has certainly made us re-evaluate our developments to ensure we offer a first-rate product but also good value for money, which we feel are vital attributes for any new development.

Up and coming places such as Croydon, Peckham and Greenwich have been hugely popular with first-time buyers. Where do you think London’s next first-time buyer hotspot will be?

Obviously, I’m biased but even with the rise in prices over the last few years, I still think Croydon offers exceptionally good value. Catford and Deptford are also tipped as up and coming areas but I don’t think they have as much to offer as Croydon in terms of retail, park land and ease of access to London, which includes 24-hour train services.

Croydon has been dubbed as the new Shoreditch. What do you think Croydon needs to take it to this level?

I think it’s a great accolade to have but Croydon is its own place and is fast making its own identity. There have been some positive steps with Tech City, TMRW, Boxpark and also Westfield on its way. We’re definitely moving in the right direction, we just need to maintain the momentum and encourage continued investment and outside operators into the borough to ensure the regeneration doesn’t tail off. The good news is the perception of Croydon is definitely changing – people are starting to recognise it as an up and coming area and it’s great to see us receive so much positive press coverage over the last 24 months. However, we must not be complacent and expect everything to fall into place just because we have seen the start of change. We still run the risk of having a lot of housing and infrastructure but a very limited offering in terms of nightlife. If that continues, residents will spend their time and money outside of Croydon, which will be a huge opportunity missed for both businesses and residents. Croydon needs to offer the full package to ensure its success in the long term.

Main photograph credit: Croydon Business Excellence Awards 2016

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