Facelift for Plymouth Civic Centre as decision on future use approaches
THE crumbling Civic Centre is set to be given a modern facelift.
The work would be done as part of ambitious proposals to find new uses for the landmark built in 1962.
Plymouth City Council is assessing four short-listed bids by organisations keen to redevelop the Grade II listed building. The proposals will see the old cladding panels removed and replaced, council finance chief Councillor Mark Lowry said.
"Under the previous Conservative administration this project had stalled. I am pleased we have moved it on and an end is in sight," Cllr Lowry told The Herald.
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"We have received four bids and we're assessing them." These will be reduced to two in a matter of weeks".
A contract is expected to be signed in June, six years after the council headquarters was unexpectedly listed. The chosen developer will be given a deadline of summer 2016 to finish the work.
Council plans to demolish the building and redevelop the site were aborted in June 2007 after English Heritage slapped Grade II listed status on the civic headquarters and Council House. Plymouth City Council has since worked with English Heritage architects to try to find alternative uses for the building.
Last year Cllr Lowry, the Cabinet member for finance, said he also wanted any investor to take on and develop the open-air car park behind the Civic Centre.
"There are four exciting proposals which include the possibility of the building being used for offices, hotels, leisure and the arts, in a mixture of uses or individually," Cllr Lowry said yesterday.
"The bidders are people with experience of similar projects.
"We need to remove all the external cladding and re-clad the building. This will give us an opportunity to ensure that the building looks architecturally significant and interesting.
"It needs to be re-clad to make it a useful building in the future.
"This gives us a significant opportunity to turn it into an iconic addition to our cityscape.
"There may be the opportunity to bring back the restaurant at the top floor."
The plans could include a "district heating" system in the basement, with a biomass boiler providing heat for the Civic Centre and surrounding buildings.
The selected developer will have to consult English Heritage and submit planning applications.
An English Heritage spokesman said: "We have offered advice on the important issue of the external cladding of the tower.
"The joint Plymouth City Council/English Heritage feasibility study acknowledged that there are issues with the current cladding panels and their relationship with the main structure.
"In looking to address the condition with the existing panelling, there is an option to re-examine issues with their future performance, in a manner that does not harm the architectural significance of the building. Any changes to the existing cladding require careful, detailed consideration."