From left, Business Forum chief executive Talal Karim, previous chief executive Despina Johnson, London Assembly member Jennette Arnold and Forum chairman Paul Morris
£80m shops, offices and homes plan for buzzing fashion centre
Entry arch to go up at street market under ambitious regeneration scheme
THE man who founded Islington’s world-famous Business Design Centre at the Angel spoke this week about his vision for Finsbury Park.
Paul Morris, born on the Woodberry Down council estate in Manor House, described how his family has been associated with Islington for more than 50 years.
He spoke at an event on Tuesday night to welcome the new chief executive of Finsbury Park Business Forum, former Islington councillor Talal Karim.
Mr Morris, chairman of the Forum, said the process of rejuvenating the area began with the refurbishment of Finsbury Park station two years ago. The result has been that new shops and businesses, including many popular restaurants and cafés, have slowly moved into the area, where rents are still relatively cheap.
The next big development, currently in the planning process, will be the estimated £80million City North scheme in Fonthill Road, which backs onto the railway line.
“It will mean more shops, offices and up to 200 homes,” Mr Morris added. “This type of regeneration will give the area a new buzz and start to change people’s perceptions.”
There are plans for a street market in Fonthill Road and an entry arch at Seven Sisters Road.
Mr Morris said that when his family opened a shopfitting business in Fonthill Road in the early 1960s the street consisted of just a barber shop, an antiques shop, and a café. “It’s amazing how it has since evolved into a well-known fashion centre,” he added.
The Business Design Centre was based on an American concept, providing lots of companies under one roof with an exhibition centre.
Mr Morris said: “We stepped in when they wanted to demolish the former Royal Agricultural Hall at the Angel in 1981.
“We took it over and it now houses more than 100 businesses, with hundreds of conferences and exhibitions every year.
“I’m not saying that Upper Street wasn’t a great place at the time. But the centre was a catalyst for improving the area. After we opened the centre, things really started to move, with new restaurants and shops opening and the area beginning to flourish.”
He believes the same improvement is destined for Finsbury Park over the next seven to 10 years.
“Ten or 12 years ago Finsbury Park was like the bad bit of filling in a sandwich between Canonbury and Crouch End,” he said. “Today I think it is on the way to becoming the caviar or smoked salmon.”
Mr Karim was an Islington Labour councillor for Junction ward from 1982 to 2002, and later worked for Camden council’s regeneration department.
He believes the area offers great opportunities for the future. “We have this fantastic transport hub, and there’s the Emirates Stadium,” said Mr Karim, who lives in Stroud Green Road.
“Our target will be to reduce youth crime in the area by providing more facilities and to clean up the litter and graffiti.”
Islington’s London Assembly Labour member Jennette Arnold, who lives in Finsbury Park, said: “It’s a wonderful cosmopolitan place. There is a great community spirit here and it needs to be recognised.
“Finsbury Park station is the second-busiest transport hub in London. But there is no step-free access to the Underground. That has been a campaign issue of mine for the past 20 years.”