The first phase of work to transform an historic former town hall in Wirral into a major visitor destination has begun.
Hoylake’s Victorian civic building is to be become the Beacon Arts Village and will feature a two-screen cinema, a fine dining restaurant, bar and café bistro, as well as 18 creative studio and retail spaces for artists and makers around a central courtyard.
In subsequent phases upper floors of the development will provide 40 apartments, using private funding.
The developer and site owner is Wirral-based Hylgar Properties who, with local group Hoylake Village Life CIC, successfully bid for £3.64m of Coastal Communities Fund, a government grant designed to help coastal communities flourish and strengthen their appeal as places to live, work and visit.
The appointed contractor and project managers for phase one is Hamilton Oakmont, specialists in both new construction and conversions of existing buildings. Specialist construction consultant is Brian Corfe, managing partner of BIAC Consultants and a former MD of Balfour Beatty. Architects for the project are Falconer Chester Hall of Liverpool.
The first phase works includes internal and external demolitions and construction, including new roofing. The ground floor is to consist of the restaurant and bar, a new build kitchen and a newly-formed covered courtyard space with kitchen space.
The first floor will consist of a two-screen cinema, with acoustic installation, a newly-constructed toilet block and refurbished creative industry office/studio spaces. The exterior of the building is to be retained and cleaned.
David Burke, Hylgar Properties, said: “We have brought together a very strong and experienced team and are delighted to have appointed Hamilton Oakmont, a company well known for sensitive building conversions, as well as Brian Corfe, who will bring his deep expertise to bear on a project which is eagerly awaited by the Hoylake and West Wirral communities.
“Given the historical nature of the buildings, all works carried out will be sympathetic to the existing building’s design, with full support from the local conservation officer. We will also be working with an interior design company to ensure that, where possible, existing historical features will be retained.”
The building, first opened for use in 1898, was recently the home to the monthly ‘pop-up’ Hoylake Community Cinema, as well as a number of small creative enterprises, including BAFTA award winning film production company, Mad as Birds, which will retain its base in the building.
Mark Howard, Hoylake Village Life volunteer and founder of the community cinema, said: “This is an important milestone for us, not only in terms of the five years we have been working on this vision, but also for Hoylake as a town. We believe it’s a development that Hoylake needs and it has been widely supported locally.
“Hoylake is well known for its creative community and for great community initiatives, but this will help to reenergise our high street, help to draw in further investment and attract other cultural activity while creating scores of jobs and future collaboration opportunities.”
Phase two of the project is planned by spring 2020 when the building will be fitted out.
Negotiations with a cinema operator and food and beverage operators are on-going. The project will create more than 140 jobs during design, construction and operation, and is set to open to the public by the end of 2020.
The tenant mix for the creative units is to be managed by Hoylake-based international artist Terry Duffy, Chair of the British Art and Design Association, who has more than 30 years of experience creating arts communities in Liverpool and London. This will ensure the right combination of practitioners with varying levels of experience are working in the scheme to maximise personal development, skills exchange and collaborative working.
Since 2012, the Coastal Communities Fund has invested £228 million into 395 projects UK-wide.