Latest Update: Thursday’s Community Meeting

Coming into work at Coexist each week has been a pretty weird experience lately. It’s felt a bit like being in the middle of a giant soap opera, at the same time as having to deal with some high-pressure political negotiations. Over the past 6 months, Coexist has remained in near-constant negotiations with Connolly & Callaghan (C&C) to try and secure the future of the building. But new developments and surprise twists have been cropping up on a weekly basis, making it pretty difficult to communicate to the outside world what’s been going on

While the Coexist team has been under tremendous pressure and morale for more many of us has been running pretty low, we had a bit of a boost last week, as members of the building’s community were galvanised into action. Last Thursday, a crucial meeting took place. It was facilitated by Coexist directors, but members of C&C were also present. Most importantly it was a chance for Hamilton House tenants to put questions to C&C and to raise their own concerns about how the whole process has been running.

A couple of key things that came out of the meeting that are worth repeating were:

  • Coexist’s bid to buy Hamilton House, which was submitted at the end of May, was rejected by C&C. When pushed on why this was the case by members of the community, a clear answer wasn’t given.
  • At the beginning of this month, C&C made clear their intentions to develop part of the building themselves, starting with Block C (which faces City Road). As part of these development plans, C&C made clear their intention to seek vacant possession of the building, though this does not mean that tenants will be forced to leave immediately.
  • Other questions from the audience touched on C&C’s commitment to sustainable communities and whether this has been reflected in their recent actions, especially as the development of Block C and the withdrawal of this revenue might well undermine Coexist’s ability to survive as a business.
  • Others mentioned the absence of Martin Connolly, who though not directly involved in the running of C&C is still the owner and major shareholder but has only appeared once in Bristol to communicate with members of Coexist during this whole process.

At the moment, negotiations with C&C are ongoing, particularly around the possibility of an extension to our lease, which is set to expire on 11 August. Coexist is committed to ensuring a deal that provides a measure of security for all tenants in the building. In particular, we’ve made it clear that a ‘Tenancy at Will’ situation, in which we will only have very limited security, is not acceptable. Alongside these negotiations,we will be exploring the possibility of expanding our project and moving to a new premises altogether.

In the mean time, tenants have been taking action into their own hands to communicate their dedication to the space and their commitment to keeping it the living, thriving community that it is.

In recent days, a poster campaign has sprung up around the building and the #SaveHamiltonHouse hash tag has been circulating.

Tenants also held their first action group meeting today, to discuss what action they would like to take to protect the building’s community, independent of both Coexist and C&C. We’ll keep you posted with the outcome of that meeting, and all future negotiations.

If you’re at a loose end this weekend, why not pop down to the Coexist Jumble Sale & Cafe? Grab a cuppa and see if you can grab yourself a second-hand treasure…