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Demonstrators to rally outside offices of developer threatening to demolish London's Cork Street
Image of Cork Street in the past, with Neo Naturists, by photographer Dafydd Jones.

LONDON.- Cork Street, the iconic, international art street, is in danger of being demolished and turned into luxury apartments and non-art retail spaces.
A demonstration is being organized on Saturday 13 October, to take place during Cork Street’s annual Frieze Art Fair event, with artists, gallerists and supporters turning out to protest at the proposed developments. In under a month, over 10,800 people have signed the Save Cork Street petition set up by the Save Cork Street Committee, proving the strength of public feeling.

An art world enclave for the last 90 years, Cork Street was home to Guggenheim Jeune, Peggy Guggenheim’s space, which opened in 1938 to show Duchamp, Cocteau, Arp, Kandinsky and Henry Moore. Cork Street’s oldest gallery, The Mayor Gallery (1925), launched the UK careers of artists such as Bacon, Calder, Ernst, Klee, Masson, Miro and Paolozzi. Now The Mayor, along with ten other galleries, could be driven out by two large new property developments.

On one side of the street, the British insurance firm Standard Life Investments is in the process of finalising a £90m deal with Native Land to demolish 22 to 27 Cork Street as part of a 7,700sq m (83,000sq ft) redevelopment of a site that stretches back to 29-30 Burlington Street. This site is being bought by an international partnership made up of developer Native Land (45% owned by Qatari investors), Hotel Properties Limited of Singapore and Malaysian investment firm Amcorp. The development will force seven galleries - Adam Gallery, Alpha Gallery, Beaux Arts, Mayor Gallery, Stoppenbach & Delestre, Waterhouse & Dodd and Gallery 27 – to leave their premises in June 2013. The galleries were given less than one year’s notice, on 7 August 2012.

Within the same month, The Pollen Estate announced plans to redevelop the opposite side of Cork Street, numbers 5-9, home to another four of Cork Street’s art galleries (Hay Hill, Bernard Jacobson, Messum’s and Petleys), which, if approved would start in 2015. These two separate and consecutive developments would seriously threaten the livelihoods of not only the galleries forced off Cork Street, but those remaining during the four years of major construction work on the street.

Save Cork Street is now lobbying Westminster City Council and the West End Commission to halt the developments. The campaign strategy includes appealing under Westminster’s Core Strategy Policy CS26, which requires it to protect buildings and uses of buildings that are of international and national importance, and to the St James’s Conservation Trust to extend the St James’s Special Policy Area (SPA) to Cork Street, making it a protected area for art dealers in the same way that Savile Row is for bespoke tailoring.

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