Hamilton House Press Release, 22 November 2016

This week the community based in Bristol’s iconic Hamilton House, a privately owned building in Stokes Croft; has officially been notified by the owners Connolly & Callaghan (C&C) of their intent to sell the building. Coexist, the team that manages the building has responded proactively to this and is exploring the many potential opportunities that this provides.

Coexist is a social enterprise, set up as a Community Interest Company and based on a philosophy of open-hearted and active engagement. The Hamilton House project was established in 2008 to further energise the creative and artistic activity in Stokes Croft. Coexist aspires to utilise that same energy now to engage its community on the future of the project.

Hamilton House is listed — and therefore protected — as an ‘Asset of Community Value’. On the 15th November C&C issued a formal notice to Bristol City Council of their intention to sell the building. This triggers a six-month moratorium period during which Coexist, as the current tenant (and as an eligible community interest group) can make a preferential formal bid. From May 2017 this legality will cease, and C&C can decide to sell to whomever they wish (be that Coexist or otherwise).

In July 2016, informal negotiations started with C&C relating to Coexist purchasing the building. It has been a long-held objective for Coexist to have more stability in the project — either by securing a long-term lease or ownership of the building. Coexist began to pull together a business strategy in order to fulfill this; an initial offer of £3.5 million was not accepted. Over the course of the following months a number of unsolicited offers were made by a variety of property developers ranging from £5.2 — £7 million (C&C have still not actually marketed the property).

During this period the dialogue between Coexist and C&C has been both open and honest. To date these negotiations have been underpinned by an acknowledgment of a shared history and aspirations for developing a Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Communities.

Coexist has been hard at work, exploring every viable option available. With this in mind we have applied for relevant funding and, based on communication with the funder, are confident that we will be successful. This funding will enable us to build a coherent and sustainable business strategy, obtain charitable status and launch and maintain a large community share offer; providing potential for the community to own a portion of Hamilton House.

“Our core purpose has always been to provide for the community, and we will continue to stay close to that purpose and our values” says Kimberly Rogers, Operations Manager at Coexist. “Although this news could initially appear unsettling, we see it as an opportunity for Coexist to set a precedent in the public eye, of a community who have not only invested, but innovatively and lovingly created real cultural and social capital in a key area of Bristol. We feel inspired to challenge the norms that disregard the importance of social and cultural capital when dictating the value of a building. In today’s times we are not the only ones facing an uncertain future, but we know by working together we can find a way forward”.