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Blackwall: How Republic is placing future talent at the heart of its growing campus

Trilogy Real Estate head of asset management Laurence Jones on the project’s present and future

Some of the extensive public space at Republic
Some of the extensive public space at Republic

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“We’d always had the talent of the future at the forefront of our minds while the whole complex was being designed,” said Laurence Jones. “To see that finally coming to fruition is hugely gratifying.”

The head of asset management at Trilogy Real Estate is in a buoyant but humble mood as we chat about the present and the future.

His employer, in partnership with LaSalle Investment Management, is at the helm of Republic London, a project to regenerate four unloved and unlovely buildings around Clove Crescent near East India DLR, after acquiring them in 2015.

The project is entering its sixth year and appears in rude health with 2021 seeing 120,000sq ft let to organisations – around 30% of the Docklands market over the last 12 months.

While Trilogy’s strategy has been to deliberately target a diverse range of tenants, an emerging trend as a place ideal for education has emerged.

The University Of The West Of Scotland (UWS) and Anglia Ruskin University have both increased the size of their operations on-site, together occupying more than 125,000sq ft across the scheme’s Import and Export buildings.

York St John University is also relocating to Republic in a move to expand and consolidate its existing courses and apprenticeships while allowing it to launch seven new postgrad programmes and professional education courses at a 25,000sq ft facility.

Trilogy’s Laurence Jones – image Matt Grayson

“We’ve seen the emergence of higher education as a key sector and that really underpins the ethos of what we want to be – an innovation hub,” said Laurence.

“We want universities sat next to business, sat next to real, meaningful community engagement.

“When you have all those elements collaborating with each other, benefiting from that proximity, you get an environment that’s greater than the sum of its parts and huge opportunities.

“In terms of winning these expansions and clients, it’s been very helpful to work alongside the organisations already based here.

“People kick around this idea of landlords and tenants being partners but at Republic we really do mean that.

“We’re here from first viewings to agreeing terms and ensuring fit-outs are undertaken effectively because we want to work with operators and make sure they have the maximum chance of success.

“We’ve created a fantastic environment here but, crucially for the educators, it offers something more. You have business – the City and Canary Wharf – close by.

“The endgame for most of the graduates and postgraduates here is employment, so to be in a place that lends itself to getting direct work experience for their CVs is incredibly powerful.”

The Greenhouse at Republic
The Greenhouse at Republic – image Matt Grayson

Republic isn’t simply about providing big buildings for large organisations, however. Laurence and his team are determined to accommodate businesses ranging in size from a single entrepreneur to thousands.

He said: “In partnership with UWS and The Trampery we’ve created The Greenhouse which essentially provides incubator space.

“It has a real focus on offering a support network and a space for local businesses to make that leap from an idea at home to making it a reality.

“Equally, it gives a platform for some of the university students here to start trying out their entrepreneurial ideas.

“Once someone has a credible business with a track record, they’re going to want staff and their own front door.

“So, just before Christmas, we created five micro studios. They’re a very simple prospect – 500-to-1,000sq ft – an all inclusive rent for SMEs and startups to come and occupy space on a relatively flexible basis.

“It’s a short-form lease that a business can sign there and then on the day. One is already let to Your Parking Space and, as its business grows, we can accommodate the firm’s expansion.

“We see that journey for businesses as being absolutely crucial to our campus – that there’s an entry point for everyone.” 

Trilogy is also sharply focused on opening its campus up to the local community and visitors from further afield, with a range of places to eat, drink, exercise and even shop, framing its Wi-fi enabled water gardens. 

Open and trading are the likes of physiotherapy and fitness centre Myoset, exercise powerhouse F45, independent bakery and cafe Sweet Nothing Bakehouse, ice cream parlour Gelato A Casa and recently opened specialist whisky bar Black Rock.

“The local community is, for us, very important,” said Laurence. “We’ve always strived to ensure Republic isn’t just perceived as a business park.

“We created the public areas here because we want people to come and use them, to understand what’s here and I think our big objective for 2022 is to make certain there continues to be a huge amount of community engagement to de-mystify things.

“The early indications are the next 12 months will hopefully deliver some degree of normality and we’re super excited about people coming back.

“There will be experimentation for many organisations who will be asking what their working practices will look like and what their use of space will be.

“But the early indications are good and that’s fantastic news for the food and beverage businesses and the fitness companies we have here. There’s a lot of excitement.

The Export Building's full-height atrium
The Export Building’s full-height atrium

“We’re 94% let in the Import Building and 55% let in Export and we want to keep the leasing momentum going and finish the job that we started.”

Looking further forward, a planning application for the second phase of the project is currently under consideration.

Trilogy and LaSalle hope to build homes for rent, student accommodation, more office space and a data centre on-site.

“That will help us in our ambition to crack the night time economy here,” said Laurence.

“Part of that will come from having beds on campus for students and other residents, but equally by making sure there are more people coming here from the local area.

“We always knew we needed provision here outside traditional working hours because otherwise it could just be a 9am-5pm destination.

“We see this is as the next logical step, especially given the universities we have based here now.

“The student body at Republic is incredibly diverse – many are mature students and there are those from overseas.

“We are a centre of gravity for them and we want to be somewhere that they can call home.” 

Read more: How Peabody is transforming Thamesmead

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Blackwall: Why Sweet Nothing Bakehouse at Republic offers more than just cake

Founder Beth Cardy has opened her brand’s first bricks and mortar premises in east London

Sweet Nothing Bakehouse founder Beth Cardy
Sweet Nothing Bakehouse founder Beth Cardy – image Matt Grayson

Readers in thrall to the tyranny of the sweet tooth take note, there’s a new player in town. Baker and entrepreneur Beth Cardy recently opened the doors to her first bricks and mortar premises at Republic.

Located just over the Aspen Way foorbridge from East India DLR station, Sweet Nothing Bakehouse serves up coffee from all-female Deptford-based roastery Lomond alongside an extensive array of cakes, tarts and pastries, plus milkshakes and soft-serve ice cream from Brick Lane’s own Dappa.

Decked out in pale pinks, subtle greens and blonde wood, pepped up with pot plants and dark metalwork it’s a light, inviting interior connected to a foliage-framed outdoor space via full-height plate glass windows. It all serves as a backdrop to the punchy aesthetic of Beth’s cakes which luxuriate under curls of buttercream icing, slices of dried fruit and the glamour of glitter-spritzed cherries. 

Little surprise perhaps, that she began her career in the world of fashion before making her way into the kitchen.

“Sweet Nothing started in Hackney, in my flat with my flatmates doing bespoke cakes,” said Beth, who runs the company as managing director.

“After school I went to Sheffield Hallam University and did a fashion degree. I wanted to do design – that was my dream. I moved to London to get into the industry, and realised that it wasn’t what I wanted at all.

“At university, you’re wrapped in cotton wool, you never have the real experience, so I moved into the  production side of the industry and started baking on the side.

“My mum’s actually a baker, working in the catering industry and, even when we were kids, she would just bake with us for fun.

“I found that I really enjoyed it, and I really liked cake as well, so that helped. So, I did a bit of research and enrolled on a one-day a week patisserie course.”

A selection of cakes on offer at the bakehouse
A selection of cakes on offer at the bakehouse – image Matt Grayson

Beth continued working in fashion while she trained, eventually leaving the industry to join Euphorium Bakery in Islington, which enabled her to gain the experience necessary to become qualified as a baker.

She said: “That was really hard work, getting up at half-three in the morning for a 5am start. I did that for three months – you don’t see anyone, you get up in the dark and it was not very sociable.

“I couldn’t go out at the weekends or see friends but it didn’t really put me off, I just wanted to work for myself and set my own hours. So that’s when I started Sweet Nothing in 2015, baking bespoke cakes from home.”

Working other jobs while she nurtured her brand, she made the move into events, buying and kitting out a former horse-box trailer to make the business mobile in 2016, going on to serve her products at corporate gigs for the likes of Microsoft, Paco Rabanne and Warner Brothers Studios.

“In 2017 I started looking for premises, because that’s where I always knew I wanted to go,” she said. “I didn’t always want to be in this trailer working at events, I wanted a bakery.

“It’s taken three years from finding something to actually opening because you need the right location and the right branding.

“A few places fell through, and then finally we decided to come to Republic. The unit we have is close to the DLR and gets the foot traffic in and out of the development. 

“We finally got it in March 2020 and opened on April 1 – that took 12 months because of the pandemic, which interrupted a lot of our plans, but we are here now and we want people to know we are open.”

The bakehouse serves Lomond coffee
The bakehouse serves Lomond coffee – image Matt Grayson

Sweet Nothing is constantly evolving and, as the business establishes itself, Beth is already looking to the future, near and far.

“We are a bakery and we have a bespoke cake service, which is a big part of the company – something we’ll probably end up expanding to be our main source of income,” she said. “As a female-led business we want to promote other small firms and our ethos is very much working with independent suppliers such as Dappa and Lomond.

“We don’t use any plastic and all of our cups are biodegradable. Or cutlery is disposable or wooden.

“Any plastic we do have is made from plants, so it doesn’t take 300 years to decompose, but 30 days instead.

“That was a big thing, because opening a bakery, we might have been adding to landfill – all those cups, those lids. Even before Covid a lot of people were getting into sustainability. Think how many restaurants and cafes and take-aways there are in the world and it’s unbelievable how much rubbish they generate.

“We have a food waste bin, so anything in the kitchen which is scrap goes in the bin and is then disposed of properly. 

“We’re also working with a company called Too Good To Go, which is basically an app, that offers magic bags – we fill them up with any pastries we can’t sell at the end of the day and they go out to customers. They don’t get to choose what’s in the bag, but it means we make our costs back on the pastries and we’re not generating wasted food.

“At Republic we have plans to start a brunch service, although we’re still finalising the menu.

“It’s likely to include pancakes, avocado on toast, poached eggs, waffles and the Croissant Benny, which is Eggs Benedict in a croissant.

“It will be very Australian-inspired and we’re hoping that will come together before the end of June.

“Eventually, I want to expand to other sites then maybe to start a  franchise eventually, but that’s a few years away.”

Outdoor space at Sweet Nothing Bakehouse
Outdoor space at Sweet Nothing Bakehouse – image Matt Grayson

For now, there are plenty of attractions for customers already in place, not least a range of newly launched loaf cakes.

“They have a filling inside, which is a bit of a surprise with lots of nice textures,” said Beth. 

“Overall, Sweet Nothing is very pink, Instagrammable but still classic – over the top but not too much – our products just look mouthwatering.

“My favourite thing to do is actually the bespoke cakes, which start at £36 for a five-inch one. 

“A customer will come to us and say they want pastels or stencilling and that’s the best thing, when you get to be creative and they are happy with the result.

“Running your own business is almost more stressful than working for other people, but in a good way.

“Eventually I want to step away from the everyday responsibilities of the business and start to expand it. I didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to have something like the bakery I’ve opened at Republic, to be honest.

“When I go home and have some time to myself, I think: ‘I did all that,’ and I’m so proud. Obviously it doesn’t happen overnight, but it is incredible. 

“I maybe thought I’d have a little place in a village, so to have this as my first premises is amazing and we can’t wait for more businesses to open here, which is good for all of us.” 

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