FE Burman is embarking on a ground breaking Airspace development at its premises in London, SE1.
Over the next year, developers will add nine flats above the factory in Crimscott Street, while the company continues with no or minimal disruption.
The move will secure the long term future of the business and enable it to continue to exploit its Bermondsey location as a key asset. “I used to get a letter a week offering to buy the building for what seems stupid money,” says Mike Burman, “but I always told them we would only sell if they could find me something as good as this to replace this factory.
“If we sold we would have to find something else and even going just five miles away would not work for the business.”
The area, close to Tower Bridge and in the shadow of the Shard, has become a major development area after being neglected for many years. This allowed printers and other industrial companies to settle in the area at affordable cost. In the same road as FE Burman, Vitesse had been a thriving sheetfed printer. Its site is now being developed as a residential property.
Burman says he was faced with the question of how to extract money from the premises while remaining in situ. “We have found a solution of adding another two floors on top of the existing building while retaining the integrity of the building,” he says. “We had always thought about adding another floor at some time so the structure is strong enough, but the council would not let us.”
That has changed, and the solution allows it to ease pressure on demand for housing and to keep manufacturing jobs in the area. This has become known as an Airspace development. The solution, says developer Fruition Properties, is “a positive example of both residential and industrial land uses co-existing as a viable solution to inner city land shortages”. Work on single-, two- and three-bedroom apartments will begin in the new year and will be completed by the end of 2020. The facade of the existing factory will be improved as part of the project.
The company needed to stay put because, Burman says, its business has become about bringing people in and discussing solutions, where print is an element. “We have a big show space here with lots of products to talk about solution out of which we supply print.”
He describes how Bafta approached FE Burman because it had a problem with counterfeit tickets, not only for the red carpet awards but with parking tickets, ticketing to other events and more. “Ten years ago they would not have thought about coming to a printer to get that solution,” he says. “It’s different, it’s fun and we get involved in some very interesting proposals.”
But, he points out, these customers would not travel to a meeting further away. “And we have to have the conversation with the people who are listening and that’s not the printing industry, not the production department of an agency and certainly not the print farmers.
By Gareth Ward