U+I gets Powerhouse approval

U+I has secured planning permission for plans to bring the Powerhouse at its Old Vinyl Factory site in Hayes back into use as a 29,000 sq ft innovation hub for its Plus X business.

Built in 1907 as the power generating plant for EMI’s global manufacturing headquarters, this lovely piece of early 20th Century industrial infrastructure will be re-purposed to power the future of innovation on the site. It will also return to its original purpose, housing an energy centre to provide heat and hot water across The Old Vinyl Factory development.

U+I is a partner in Plus X and is currently developing plans to roll out a number of similar hubs across its sites in London, Brighton and Manchester. Inspired by the development of the Central Research Laboratory at The Old Vinyl Factory (a manufacturing start-up support hub opened by U+I in 2015), the Plus X formula blends flexible workspaces with other facilities and support including media studios, prototype workshops and bio labs. It integrates innovation programmes with start-up accelerators and offers business growth services, specifically designed to meet the needs of entrepreneurial designers and engineers. The hubs are specifically designed to help drive meaningful connections between business members, students, higher education partners, corporations and the local community and are tailored to suit their location.

Since acquiring 17-acre The Old Vinyl Factory site in 2011, U+I has driven development of the site through a series of partnerships. Soon to be complete, the site will feature 642 homes with 376 already delivered by HUB and Be:here, with the remaining 266 to be built by Weston Homes and Joseph Homes. There is also 550,000 sq ft of office space, an academy school and a portfolio of retail and leisure facilities anchored by an arthouse cinema that will open in 2021. All of this is connected by extensive new public space.

The complex mix of uses on the site is having a significant impact on the economic and social sustainability of Hayes town centre and its surrounding area, say U+I. When the site is fully occupied more than 4,000 people will work there, many of them new jobs to the town. The development of the site as an extension of the town centre will, it is hoped, create more jobs and opportunities for business and leisure growth. As Plus X business members scale in the new facility, U+I say they will create a productive and sustaining ecosystem, attracting even more business and greater employment opportunities.

The Powerhouse building has been designed by architects, Pilbrow & Partners. Their design includes an events space and café, meeting rooms, private member studios and flexible desk-working opportunities. Floor plates are arranged to promote natural light and foster a healthy working environment. The use of timber extends to the façade of a new-build two-storey extension on the northern side, which will create additional co-working space around a green courtyard. The addition will restore and re-activate the original Blyth Road street frontage that has been eroded in the last 21 years.

As part of The Powerhouse application, U+I also submitted plans for the development of Vinyl Square, designed by Studio Egret West. It’s the largest public landscaped area within The Old Vinyl Factory development and will be the home to the 6-metre sculpture of Nipper the Dog (pictured right), the original symbol of HMV, a label that was born on the site, that was installed in 2017. Works to deliver Vinyl Square will begin later this year.

U+I is also soon to launch a 53,000 sq ft Plus X Innovation Hub at its Preston Barracks development in Brighton and the Plus X partnership has more hubs planned across the UK.

Richard Upton, Chief Development Officer at U+I said: “By offering inspiring workspace, incredible facilities and countless opportunities for collaboration, The Powerhouse will play a key role in supporting young and established businesses and entrepreneurs to flourish. The Plus X Innovation Hub will further position The Old Vinyl Factory as a world-class creative and innovative campus. Our partnership with Plus X will allow us to unlock potential and drive business growth, innovation, collaboration and positive social impact among occupants and further transform the local area.”

Paul Rostas, Co-CEO of Plus X said: “We are delighted that with the restoration of the iconic Powerhouse, Plus X will soon have a new, aspirational home for The Central Research Laboratory, London’s leading hardware and product focussed accelerator that was opened at The Old Vinyl Factory in 2015. By moving to this much larger and bespoke designed space, Plus X can treble the number of SMEs supported across a broader range of sectors”

The design of The Powerhouse preserves and highlights the key interior features of the building. The proposed internal layout adds two new floors within the existing triple-height space, creating visibility and transparency not only across floor plates, but also between levels, to enhance the sense of connection between all members, staff and visitors. A free-standing spiral accommodation stair wraps around the existing chimney.

Tal Ben-Amar, Founding Partner at Pilbrow & Partners, said: “The Powerhouse building will create inspiring incubator spaces that support creative businesses to grow. Our design will create a modern, healthy work environment centred around a courtyard, café and exhibition space which highlight the triple height volume of the original powerhouse.”

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