London’s new concert hall attempts to brighten up Elton John’s former stomping ground
Just north of London’s Chinatown stands a rare sight on Britain’s high streets: a new concert hall.
Outernet, led by developer Consolidated Developments, is part of an almost decade-long vision to rethink a landmark domain for the UK music industry. It stands on Denmark Street, nicknamed Britain’s Tin Pan Alley after the famous New York street.
Just south of Tottenham Court Road station, the area was home to music publishers, rehearsal rooms and instrument shops and a familiar haunt of musicians such as David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, the Kinks and the Sex Pistols in the 1960s and 1970s. Its cultural cachet, however, declined as concert halls turned into retail outlets and big tech companies such as Google moved in.
Outernet London aims to “put this historic area of London back on the cultural map”, says its website, through a 2,000 capacity music venue, retail space, art exhibitions and brand launches in several buildings – complemented by a unique “multi-sensory experience” for more than 100 million visitors per year.
Critics, however, point to the garish design of the £1billion development’s tallest building. Built above the Crossrail tunnel, it is seen by some as a symbol of seemingly doomed gentrification efforts – rejuvenating both the area and London’s beat live music industry.
Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, the trade body for the recorded music industry, has a more favorable view than some in the industry.
“Outernet London will add an innovative new dimension to London’s vibrant music and entertainment scene, with state-of-the-art live music and promotional spaces, and a free recording studio for young musicians,” a- he declared. “This is a positive development for music, building on the rich heritage of Denmark Street.”
It’s a legacy that’s changed since Consolidated Developments began drawing up plans around 2012, with construction beginning in 2017.
The area is now home to sites like Facebook Online, which moved its headquarters to Rathbone Square in 2015, and Google, which paid £730m for offices in the area earlier this year.
Crossrail has helped transform the area over time, which has tunneled Denmark Street and upended old sites.
Nearby, for example, is the site of the Astoria – a legendary music venue that hosted Radiohead, Metallica and Muse before closing in 2009 as part of Crossrail project development plans.