Rebuild Greyfriars into a Shoreditch-style boxpark business hub, say Northampton graduate entrepreneurs

Jacob Austin-Lavelle and Phil Cridge discussed their idea on NLIVE yesterday (February 14).
Jacob Austin-Lavelle and Phil Cridge discussed their idea on NLIVE yesterday (February 14).

A University of Northampton graduate is behind an ambitious drive to build a "boxpark" business centre made out of shipping containers on the site of the town’s former bus station.

Graduate Jacob Austin-Lavelle and his colleague Phil Cridge want to regenerate the empty Greyfriars Bus Station, which has stood empty since the building was demolished in 2015, into a "boxpark" in the style of Shoreditch and Dundee.

Plans for the empty Greyfriars site are currently on hold.

Plans for the empty Greyfriars site are currently on hold.

The entrepreneurs, who also founded the Co-work Engine start-up space in Abington Avenue, say they have the backing and funding routes to make it happen if the borough council is interested.

The Greyfriars site has planning permission for new homes and leisure services, but the borough council’s plans for the site are currently on hold.

Phil said: “There’s a bit of a drive from local people at the moment to try and convince the council to build a box park at the old bus station site.

“It would allow very cheap rent for independent creative and ambitious local people to get their first leg up and put themselves out there collectively.”

Boxparks are shops or offices created out of shipping containers stacked on top of each other.

Sites like Boxpark Shoreditch and District 10 in Dundee have been a success, housing local retailers, pop-up shops and small offices, as well as restaurants and craft beer bars.

Jacob said: “Northampton is a big town and there is a lot we can do. It is fertile ground now with the internet allowing us to do so much because, logistically, this town is at the heart of this country.

“If we build Boxpark then people won’t feel the need to leave Northampton to develop their ideas. Instead of people leaving the town like a brain drain, other creative people from Leicester and Birmingham will also want to come here and set up their businesses.”