In 2014, property group Delancey bought a shopping center that was described as an “eyesore” to passersby for £80 million (almost $110 million). The developer’s proposal, revamping the marketplace into a high-end, mixed-use complex, was presented before the council’s planning committee on January 16. The following day, Latinos living in the South London area sighed in relief, as plans were refused for a 979-home, mixed-use redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle market.
Delancey wanted to replace the “manky hot-pink semi-empty mall” with a state-of-the-art complex; turning an unfashionable neighborhood into “Piccadilly of the South.” (Piccadilly is one of London’s major shopping streets, with several famous shops, luxury hotels, and offices). The project was planned to include 979 homes and a multiplex cinema, alongside a new campus for the London College of Communication (LCC) and incubator hubs for local start-ups.
London’s Elephant and Castle is home to a growing South American population. The number of Latinos living in the British capital has quadrupled from 2001 to 2011, growing from 31,000 in 2001 to 113,000 in 2011. Before they received the refusal, the developers said they had offered market retailers a “generous package of support,” with free relocation to temporary housing during building work and then permanent housing across the road.
In the North London district of Tottenham, another Latin American marketplace is being sold by a compulsory purchase order, triggering a UN investigation into the gentrification of the area and the forced displacement of its inhabitants. As one columnist describes it, the Pueblito Paisa marketplace in Tottenham runs on Salsa beats, as customers feast on tamales, beans and empanadas; others chatter in Spanish as they get their hair done, leaving their children to run freely through the corridors.
“We are powerless in this country, and this [marketplace] makes us feel a little bit at home,” Colombia-born Marta Lucia Giraldo, tells The Independent. Giraldo owns a money transfer business in one of the market’s 61 units alongside her husband. “We wanted to feel like at least a tiny bit in Colombia, to feel closer to our families.”