The first phase of work to transform a historic former town hall in Wirral into a major visitor destination has begun, heralding what could be the renaissance of a famous North West seaside town.
Hoylake, on the Dee estuary, has an illustrious history, but in recent times its seaside glamour has waned. That is all set to change following the award earlier this year of a multi-million-pound grant for a major new community asset.
The town is the childhood home of several film stars and renowned musicians, as well as Open Championship venue, Royal Liverpool Golf Club, and has received a £3.64m government grant to create an arts village comprising a two-screen cinema, a high-end restaurant, a bar and a 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 Beacon Village Arts project, is being driven by developer and site owner, Wirral-based Hylgar Properties who, with local group Hoylake Village Life CIC, successfully bid for the funding from the Coastal Communities Fund, administered by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government and designed to help coastal communities flourish and strengthen their appeal as places to live, work and visit.
The building, first opened for use as a town hall in 1898, was recently 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.
For project leaders, the successful funding bid is the culmination of five years of hard work designed to build on Hoylake’s credentials as a creative town that boasts numerous painters, sculptors, poets, musicians and performers, including The Coral, OMD, Miles Kane The Last Shadow Puppets, The Rascals and The Little Flames.
Hoylake is also the childhood home of James Bond actor, Daniel Craig; double Oscar-winning actress and politician, Glenda Jackson; AC/DC bassist, Cliff Williams; Olympic Gold medal cyclist, Chris Boardman; and best-selling novelist, Helen Forrester.
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.
Both Hoylake Village Life CICand Hylgar Properties, believe it will help reimagine the town’s high street, which has fallen on harder times in the last decade, and create more than 140 jobs during design, construction and operation.
Mark Howard, Hoylake Village Life volunteer and founder of the community cinema, said: ‘We carried out a huge amount of public consultation; from this and from the overwhelmingly positive feedback to the planning application, it’s clear that many people feel this is exactly the kind of development Hoylake needs. To stay alive, a town needs to keep up a process of continual change and sustainable redevelopment and this project is an exemplar of that.
‘Hoylake has a burgeoning reputation as a cultural hub and we believe that the Arts is the key to the on-going sustainable regeneration of the town. The Beacon Arts Village will be a wonderful addition to a creative community that in recent years has seen so many great initiatives breathe new life into the town such as the annual Festival of Firsts; Hoylake’s magnificent Seasonal and Christmas lights displays, Wirral Open Studios, Hoylake Live!, Hoylake and Meols in Bloom and ‘Incredible Edible’.
‘It’s superbly located adjacent to the train station and sits on a high street that needs greater animation and footfall and we believe this will increase Hoylake’s attraction for visitors, as well as create scores of jobs and future collaboration opportunities.’
David Burke of Hylgar Properties said that plans include the support of start-up and early stage business growth realised through collaborative programmes of services, advice and skills, until occupiers need bigger premises at which point new fledgling businesses can move in.
He said: ‘Part of the thrust of the project is about business and job creation and to create a great working environment which in turn we hope will bring added benefits to the rest of the town by helping to keep Hoylake’s offer fresh and new.
‘This has underpinned our successful bid, but ultimately it has been about having the confidence to realise our ambition and the support of the community has been crucial in bringing this project forward – it has truly been a collaborative effort.
‘We are convinced that the Beacon Arts Village will be a major anchor for further economic development and regeneration in Hoylake which will attract further investment and provide greater numbers of jobs and opportunities for young people.’
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.
He added: ‘We have brought together a very strong and experienced team. 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 tenant mix for the creative units will 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.
For Adam Hall, managing director of Falconer Chester Hall, architects for the project, it has special significance. He said: ‘Personally this has been a significant commission for FCH, I live nearby and pass this building every day on the way to work. It has long been an important building in Hoylake and West Wirral and to convert it to new use will ensure its importance is retained for future generations.
‘This is more than a renovation, however, because it will help restore Hoylake’s reputation as a visitor destination and restore activity on the main thoroughfare through the town. Hoylake Village Life and Hylgar properties with community support deserve much credit for their vision and commitment to the project.’
Negotiations with a cinema operator, food and beverage operators are on-going, with a series of appointments to be made in early 2020. The complex is set to open in autumn 2020.
Phase two of the project is planned by spring 2020 when the building will be fitted out.
Since 2012, the Coastal Communities Fund has invested £228 million into 395 projects UK-wide.