Coal Drops Yard opens, offers new take on London's mall boom

UK retail may be under a dark cloud at the moment, but new retail developments have come thick and fast this year and the latest is the opening of Coal Drops Yard. The ‘mall’ officially opens at mid-day on Friday, adding to the fashion and lifestyle offer in the evolving King’s Cross area, but also offering a different approach to London’s expanding retail sector.


Coals Drops Yard blends the old and the new


Coal Drops Yard has been developed by property specialist Argent and is home to over 50 stores, restaurants and cafés, “bringing together a community of like-minded brands in a reimagined set of historic buildings and arches directly adjacent to Granary Square and Regent’s Canal.” 

The two buildings that make up Coal Drops Yard (named after its original Victorian function when it held coal coming from the North for London) have been spruced up and given a Heatherwick Studio-designed statement roof and other transformational features. They now offer a powerful mix of the Victorian and the contemporary with a roof that adds to the retail space and “stitches together” the two original buildings, while also creating a powerful public space.

Like the space itself, the carefully curated mix of stores such as Paul Smith, Miller Harris, Beija London, American Vintage and Cubitts is also about contrasts. Alongside well-known and established brands there are newer names, and in the adjacent “incubator” area on Lower Stable Street, nascent brands with little capital behind them can get a start in smaller units that offer a mix of long or flexible leases. 

Heatherwick Studio founder Thomas Heatherwick said of this that he can imagine a situation where graduates leave Central Saint Martins, which is virtually next door, and open up in the one of the units.

POWERFUL CONTRASTS

As mentioned, the mall’s overall design mixes contemporary elements with the original Victorian building and arches and is undeniably like any other mall in London. Its closest equivalent could be said to be Covent Garden’s Piazza. However, Covent Garden was originally built with selling in mind, unlike Coal Drops Yard, and Thomas Heatherwick on Thursday said that with Covent Garden already existing, he wanted to avoid recreating its experience and his team set out to achieve something quite different.

And he said it was key to the King’s Cross development to give people a strong reason to visit a physical location. “In a time when you can stay in bed and buy anything you want, the most important thing in every project we work on is the human experience, to be with your fellow humans is more precious than ever,” he said. “You don’t have to go out, so this had to mean something and not be a generic duplicate, which maybe could be got away with 20 years ago before the digital revolution.”

For this reason, the Coal Drops Yard and Lower Stable Street locations will also be important as venues for live events such as fashion shows and experiential stores with a big focus on pop-ups. 


Tracey Neuls is one of the new stores at Coal Drop Yard


Pop-ups confirmed there include a specially-curated space by Stockholm-based independent design brand Hem; a concept store from Christopher Raeburn featuring collaborations with Timberland, Finisterre and Palladium; as well as a workshop space from Store Store, “which will present a unique chance for young people to see their ideas go from imagination to reality”.

It’s understandable that the development has taken a different approach compared to many other new malls in the UK at the moment given the diverse groups of consumers in the area. For a start, there are thousands of students as Central Saint Martins, there are the local residents and workers, the tens of millions of people using King’s Cross and St Pancras stations every year (including commuters and visitors) and the large numbers coming in from Europe via Eurostar.

So what exactly will they all find there? Stores and restaurants to open on Friday at Coal Drops Yard include American Vintage, Barrafina, Beija London, Bonds King’s Cross, Caravane, Casa Pastor, the Christopher Raeburn pop-up, Cubitts, The Drop, Emin & Paul, Form & Thread, Fred Perry, Joseph Cheaney & Sons, Lavenham, Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, LPOL, Manifesto, Maya Magal London, Margaret Howell’s MHL, Miller Harris, Paul Smith, Rains, S120, The Sports Edit, Tracey Neuls, Universal Works, Vermuteria, and Wolf & Badger.

Lower Stable Street will be home to Ally Capellino, Beautystack, House of Cans, iyouall, Kiosk N1C, MDR Gallery, and Redemption Roasters.

And next month will see the arrival of Cos, the Hem pop-up, Hicce x Wolf & Badger, Morty & Bob’s, Sacred Gold, the Store Store pop-up, Superga, Outsiders Store, Facegym, Twiin, Bodega Rita’s, and Honest Jon’s. Later they’ll be joined by Aesop, Finisterre, Malin & Goetz, Samsung, and Le Cafe Alain Ducasse.

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