Wednesday 21 July 2021

Redevelopment of Onyx House, 401 Mile End Road

Photo of CZWG's iconic Onyx House peering through renovation hordings
Conversion works approach completion

In January 2019 Tower Hamlets Council, proposed to lease 401 Mile End Road (aka Onyx House) from Gateway Housing. A planning application was submitted for the:

 "Conversion of the existing college/teaching institution to temporary accommodation units. Change of use from D1 (non residential institutions) to C3 (dwelling houses)"

and this was approved in March 2019. The plans include secure bike storage at the rear, accessed from the east side of the building boundary near the Territorial Army Centre, as well as concealed bin storage inside the southwest boundary fence. The development is car-free.

The redevelopment will consist of 15 self-contained flats and this temporary accommodation is scheduled to last for five years and provide temporary accommodation to allow the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to reduce its homelessness. The application received two objections which were chiefly concerned about parking issues and the potential for increased ASB and drug use. The council will have a management plan in place which will mitigate these issues. Additionally LBTH have stated: "No offer of accommodation will be made to a household where there is a known history of behaviour that would make a placement inappropriate. This will include anti-social behaviour, drug and alcohol misuse, violent and other criminal behaviour".

The conversion is on schedule to be completed in the first two weeks of August.

The first known building that was standing on this site was the so called Essex House, an early 18th century mansion. The building was facing Mile End Road with a large garden behind. After 1891 it was the home of Charles Robert Ashbee, of the Arts and Craft movement, who had here workshops producing metalwork and jewellery for which he became famous. After he moved in 1902, Essex House survived another 35 years, but was demolished in 1937 to make way for an art deco style Odeon cinema that opened in 1938. The cinema survived the war and although changing function later in its life, it occupied the site until 1984 when it was demolished. The present building with its unusual fa├žade is attributed to Piers Gough, who lives locally, and is the architect responsible for the nearby Green Bridge. 

Photo of Essex House which was on the spot now taken by Onyx House.
Essex House, demolished 1937

A photo of the Mile End Odeon Cinema which occupied the site where Onyx House now stands.
The 2,304 seater Mile End Odeon cinema demolished in 1984

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