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Sunday, April 14, 2024

£20 Million revitalization initiative breathes new life into Middlesbrough: House of Fraser building set to become vibrant cultural hub

Iconic House of Fraser building set for overhaul after £20m Levelling Up Fund success

Middlesbrough’s landmark House of Fraser building will be transformed as part of a £20m investment programme to revitalise the town.

Middlesbrough Council was identified in the latest round of so-called levelling up funding in the spring of last year and has been working alongside the Government on a series of potential projects. As well as significant refits in the town centre, the package could see money handed out for education, temporary accommodation for vulnerable people and a £1.9m boost to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.

Funding of £2m to pour life back into the House of Fraser department store will come as welcome news after 18 months of the building standing empty. The permanent closure of the iconic store in 2022 was met with sadness and disappointment by town centre shoppers.

Under the plans, which the council’s Executive will be asked to approve on 14 February, the basement and ground floor of the building would be transformed into a cultural venue for music and creative arts. Studios, performance spaces and facilities for independent creative businesses could also be included in the project.

House of Fraser first traded from 1923 as Binns on Corporation Road opposite the Odeon until it moved premises to the Linthorpe Road store 15 years later. At the time of the new store opening, it was described in newspaper reports at the time as the “finest in the country” and “Teesside’s answer to New York”.

The brand took over Binns in 1953, although the department store name remained unchanged up until 2006. The store first closed back in 2018, but was rescued by Mike Ashley. Middlesbrough Council then bought the building for £1m at the same time it acquired Captain Cook Square.

The council said it will also focus the funding from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) on tackling a series of priorities to increase the life chances of people in the town. It was noted the money must be used on the specific projects identified and cannot be used to plug the funding gap in the council’s budget.

Mayor of Middlesbrough, Chris Cooke. Image: Middlesborough Council.

As reported, leaders have agreed to seek £15m in exceptional financial support in a bid to balance the books and fund redundancies. Mayor of Middlesbrough, Chris Cooke said: “I’m focused on recovering the Council’s financial position so we can reset the organisation and concentrate on delivering the services people need and value.

“Our budget position remains incredibly challenging but this is welcome money that can be spent on specific projects.” The investment in the town could also see:

  • The skills and employment hub in the Cleveland Centre become the home to Middlesbrough’s Community Learning Service, delivering courses including apprenticeships
  • A new youth services and training centre in Hemlington
  • Investment in the council’s existing Family Hubs including Park End, West Middlesbrough and Thorntree
  • An expanded Live Well Centre relocated from the Dundas Arcade to the Cleveland Centre, opposite Centre Square
  • Over £1m spent on Live Well East, the new council hub in Berwick Hills, providing a base for various services
  • £2.1m to increase temporary accommodation stock for vulnerable people
  • The council work with Middlesbrough College to provide £2.2m for improved facilities to support construction, welding and healthcare courses
  • An adult learning centre with £3.7m of funding to buy 100 Russell Street, which will support Middlesbrough College in delivering skills boot camps and free courses

Full business cases for each of the projects will be developed by DLUHC with grants of £9.9m provided for 2023/24 and a further £10.9m the following year. Welcoming the funding, Mr Cooke said: “We’re working to build a healthier, safer and ambitious Middlesbrough and all of these projects will help to improve people’s lives.

“We’re prioritising spending a high proportion of this welcome funding on children and adults who need it most so that no one is left behind. At the same time we’re investing more in measures to fight crime and antisocial behaviour so we can give even more support to Cleveland Police.

Andy McDonald Image: Wikipedia

“I’m pleased that the programme we’ve designed will give our town centre a shot in the arm and also fund new services for the people of East Middlesbrough and Hemlington.” Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald said it will make “a real difference” to people across the town.

“I’m sure the investment in the House of Fraser building to create a cultural venue for music and the arts will be of great interest and will complement the new attractions in Captain Cook Square which Middlesbrough Council has been working so hard to deliver,” he said. “There is much to be optimistic about in our town centre and in our communities from this investment and I congratulate Mayor Chris Cooke and all involved.”

In December, Redcar and Cleveland Council also announced it had been successful in a bid for just over £20m. The money will be used for projects including the redevelopment of Redcar Central Station.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands the Middlesbrough Levelling Up partnership announcement was delayed by Government until the outcome of the report into Teesworks. A previous funding bid included plans to restore the Crown Building on the corner of Borough Road however this was not included in the identified projects in the latest bid.

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