Hamilton House: Our Future
Find all the information you need on the history of Hamilton House, the current situation, the intention for the future – and most importantly – how you can help.
Coexist is not the only bidder interested in taking ownership of Hamilton House; as a prime site in central Bristol it is ripe for residential development from a number of sources. Given the nature of the project as it stands and the deeply felt passion inherent in Coexist to secure the space for community use, our purchase bid; which has been lovingly researched and collectively re-visioned over the last five months aims to further the original aspirations of 2008.
It includes a pioneering new energy renewal system, the installation of a cutting edge straw-bale constructed eco-hostel on our roof (complete with amazing views!), to support the community who visit and attend the diverse array of events and activities which take place in the building and beyond, the development of a new creche facility to support freelancers (with a pilot programme about to be launched following a successful funding bid) and the relocation of our Wellbeing facility to enable easier access to all, as well as an overall refocus and reenergising of Coexists outreach, collaboration and partnership work throughout the city.
All of our visioning for the future is underpinned by a need to not only find new and innovative ways of embodying our core purpose, values and approach, but of becoming a fully sustainable, financially viable, healthy and robust organisation – that can continue to hold space and meet the needs of the very community we wish to serve.
Home to almost 500 residents; the rabbit warren vastness of Hamilton House is always maxed out to full capacity; renting space here means being part of a community who all share the same values. Coexist strive to bring together the buildings’ many occupants for cross-collaboration whenever we can; innovating together is at the very heart of Hamilton House. Wondering who’s here? You can see our full directory here, and if you want to join our waiting list for space, you can do so here.
Over 1000 different events take place within the walls of Hamilton House every year. One of the easiest ways you can support Hamilton House and all the amazing organisations, performers, educators and artists that choose to host their event at our venue is by visiting us. You can view our full listings here.
Thank you to our Friends & Supporters:
Back in 2004 when Connolly & Callaghan (C&C) purchased the building, Hamilton House was a vacant and derelict office block. C&C began a pioneering process to develop a vision for an ‘Urban Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Communities’. They invited various friends and contacts who shared their social aspirations into the building to further their original vision, and the team now known as Coexist was born. It is this organisation which now manages Hamilton House as it’s flagship project – a social enterprise; set up as a community interest company based on a philosophy of open hearted and active engagement. It empowers members of the community on Stokes Croft to lead its development and have incubated new creative projects and social businesses from conception to sustainability; believing that the successful and much needed regeneration of our community is sustainable only if the growth is organic and from the bottom up!
Hamilton House has had a substantial impact on the communities and neighbourhoods around it, and the urban regeneration of Stokes Croft. We are home to a community of around 500 people based in our studios and offices including artists from a wide range of disciplines; fine artists, puppeteers, costumiers, printmakers and illustrators, makers and sculptors. Internationally acclaimed artists Davy and Kristin McGuire are based here, and Hamilton House is home to one of Bristols largest illustrator’s hubs; run by Drawn In Bristol. This artistic community, including our own Coexist gallery with two exhibition spaces, is intimately involved in Bristol’s culture and arts scene, whilst the affordable studios here support many major arts projects across the city.
Our two busy dance studios are home to DMAC UK (Dance, Music, Arts Collective), supporting dance, movement and arts education across cultures. CoResist are a collective of artists dedicated to producing transformative performance work for social and ecological change and our partners in delivery across our event spaces. A range of charities and social enterprises can be found here, such as Imayla, Misfits Theatre Company (winner of the 2013 National Lottery Good Causes Arts Award), community radio station Passion Radio and Tribe of Doris. These projects have drawn millions in charitable funding to the region. We are also home to a number of local businesses that are shaping the city and its local economy including The Canteen and Grade Management. Others have grown out of the space here into new premises of their own, such as Kambe Events and Boomtown Fair.
The building hosts approximately 1000 events annually in our conference & meeting rooms, community kitchen, events and community arts spaces; we offer a service that is professional but affordable – and as such we have helped a huge number of local projects get off the ground, including Bristol Energy Cooperative, Bristol Green Doors, and the Bristol Bike Project (winner of the 2011 Observer Environmental Charity of the Year Award). Over the last year Coexist has provided almost £20,000 worth of free and discounted space to a variety of charities and not-for profits including Bristol Refugee Rights, Bridges for Communities and Bristol Hospitality Network to name just a few.
We are also actively involved in community engagement, to deepen our relationships with the local neighbourhoods so as to respond better to local needs. The Coexist Community Kitchen runs outreach courses with the Bristol Drugs Project, The Prince’s Trust, Second Step and others; using food as a vehicle to challenge life’s challenges, and our Community Conscious project, based in our Wellbeing centre, brings alternative therapies into a range of very different communities often for the first time.
Coexist is currently monitoring on a large scale the social impact of the many activities that take place at Hamilton House, which is supported by funding from the Big Potential. As you can imagine this is no small feat; the ripple effect of Hamilton House is large. Its intricacies interweave with many many other organisations, enterprises, groups, troops and individuals’ own social, cultural and economic aims and aspirations, which expand the social footprint; creating a huge Bristol-felt impact. The size and scope of the reporting means it’s going to take over the next year to monitor and gather the data – but this process is an exciting one which will lead Coexist to a more informed place – one that highlights the importance of social and cultural capital when dictating the value of a building.
Still not sure who Coexist are? Check out our Meet The Team page to see who we are.
On the 22nd November 2016 Coexist sent a press release into the wider world. Big things had been rumbling behind the walls of the iconic project in the heart of Stokes Croft, and now it was time to tell Bristol that Hamilton House was potentially going to be sold. The formal notification by the owners Connolly & Callaghan (C&C) of their intent to sell the building followed months of discussions with Coexist - who wanted to buy it.
The story started last Summer, when given the collaborative nature of the partnership between C&C (the owners) and Coexist (the tenants), exciting conversations soon led to informal negotiations relating to Coexist purchasing the building. It has been a well known long-held objective for Coexist to have more stability in their flagship project — either by securing a long-term lease or ownership of the building. Coexist started to apply for relevant grant funding to support the process, and began to pull together a business strategy; although an initial purchase offer made of £3.5 million was not accepted, the dialogue with C&C continued - underpinned by an acknowledgment of a shared history and aspirations for developing a Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Communities. Over the course of the following months a number of other unsolicited offers were made by a variety of property developers ranging from £5— £7.5 million.
Back in 2014 Hamilton House was listed — and therefore protected — as an ‘Asset of Community Value’, however as agreed with Coexist on the 15th November C&C issued a formal notice to Bristol City Council of their 'intent to dispose' the building. Thus triggering a six-month moratorium period during which Coexist (as an eligible community interest group) could 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). The deadline for Coexist to make their bid is the 15th May 2017.
Following a successful application, Coexist was awarded £94,000 of grant funding via The Big Potential; a body which supports voluntary sector organisations and social enterprises to seek out social investment. What has that money gone towards? It has enabled Coexist to embark on a 12-month project to become investment-ready by refining our business and finance strategies, leading with a strong emphasis on calculating the true social value created by our flagship project. This is a crucial part of the buying strategy as we lead up to June; the month earmarked to launch a Community Share Offer targeted to raise £1.2 million - should we have our bid accepted, fundraising and seeking out investment will be the next phase rolled out. A community share offer is an invitation to invest in a business that serves a social purpose. It’s different from a conventional public share offer because rather than profit being the primary motivating factor, the focus of the investment is often on the social benefits. Anyone can buy shares, and ultimately anyone who does will be a co-owner of Hamilton House and have a say in its future; realizing the dream that an important community asset be owned by the community itself. Some of the other work Coexist has undergone in readiness for this to take place is to re-organise our governance structure; incorporating a new CCBS (Charitable Community Benefit Society) to work alongside our CIC (Community Interest Company) so that we can make gains from having a tax exempt charitable status (discounted business rates and stamp duty, and a new capacity to drawdown from trusts in donations).
Coexist is not the only bidder interested in taking ownership of Hamilton House; as a prime site in central Bristol it is ripe for residential development from a number of sources. Given the nature of the project as it stands and the deeply felt passion inherent in Coexist to secure the space for community use, our second purchase bid; which has been lovingly researched and collectively re-visioned over the last five months aims to further the original aspirations of 2008. It includes a pioneering new energy renewal system, the installation of a cutting edge straw-bale constructed eco-hostel on our roof (complete with amazing views!), to support the community who visit and attend the diverse array of events and activities which take place in the building and beyond, the development of a new creche facility to support freelancers (with a pilot programme about to be launched following a successful funding bid) and the relocation of our Wellbeing facility to enable easier access to all, as well as an overall refocus and reenergising of Coexists outreach, collaboration and partnership work throughout the city. All of our visioning for the future is underpinned by a need to not only find new and innovative ways of embodying our core purpose, values and approach, but of becoming a fully sustainable, financially viable, healthy and robust organisation - that can continue to hold space and meet the needs of the very community we wish to serve.
From the beginning Coexist has been committed to making this a process of community consultation, starting at our AGM in December 2016 where 120 members of our community mandated that we should do what we can to secure the future of Hamilton House. Since then Coexist has played host to a number of Hamilton House Action Group meetings; a space to gather our internal community together for support, news, and crucially - help with the campaign.
If you want to help, support or offer feedback - we always want to hear from you!
Statement from C&C:
"Connolly & Callaghan has supported and assisted Coexist for nearly a decade in its work in creating community. Coexist was brought into being in 2008 because Connolly & Callaghan wanted to create an experimental centre of excellence in sustainable community at Hamilton House, which we have owned since 2004.
Coexist is among a number of organisations that have expressed an interest in purchasing Hamilton House, which is a 55,000 square feet five-storey mixed-use building in Stokes Croft, Bristol. It includes the headquarters of Connolly and Callaghan a sustainable new housing developer employing 60 staff, 21 maintenance vehicles serving our 400 properties in our housing accommodation division that supports the homeless
At the request of Coexist, we gave formal notice in November 2016 to Bristol City Council of intention to sell, which provided a six-month moratorium period during which eligible community groups such as Coexist could make preferential formal bids. Going forward, our intention is to maintain a flexible approach towards the future of Hamilton House.
We hope to see Coexist continue its work in community building, and to also see Coexist build its own long-term social, environmental and financial stability".
Listen to this audio documentary, produced and edited by Jake Wittlin, about the story of Coexist and Hamilton House in Bristol.
If you are as passionate as we are about protecting and nurturing spaces for the community and progressive social change, there are multitude of ways you can support the situation currently unfolding at Hamilton House:
- Follow Hamilton House on social media (Facebook/Twitter)
- Join our dedicated community Facebook group here
- Sign up to our twice-monthly newsletter for regular updates on the situation.
- Share this page on your own networks & tell your friends (the more people that know about what is happening here the better!)
- Register for one of our guided building tours so you can meet Coexist and see first hand what this project is all about.
- Attend one of the many events, exhibitions, classes and performances that take place here
- Host one of your own events here (we have a great bar for parties!).
- If you have your own personal special experience of Hamilton House (and the support it has offered you) then please get in touch as we would love to hear it.
- If you are a like-minded organisation or community and would like to be part of a network of supporters, please get in touch.