Millions of pounds worth of investment in the arts, business and infrastructure of Northampton will be unveiled today (Thursday).
Northampton Borough Council is to announce the latest set of radical changes destined for the town centre and the Waterside area at an event in the Guildhall today, the Chronicle & Echo can reveal.
Leader of the authority, Councillor David Mackintosh (Con, Rectory Farm), was set to lift the lid on £5m plans to turn the former Vulcan Ironworks, in Guildhall Road, into a ‘hub’ for creative industries.
He will also launch proposals for a £250,000 business incentive scheme which will see grants available for town centre traders and moves taken to improve the appearance of empty shop fronts.
Along with a number of visual improvements set for the Cultural Quarter, a new ‘Boot and Shoe’ Quarter will be established to recognise the industrial heritage of the Mounts area.
The various schemes will be funded through a mixture of public, private and grant funding
Councillor Mackintosh said: “I think the reaction will be positive.
“People can clearly see that things have been built in the town in recent years and this is about showing that the programme is now continuing.
“It’s so important we don’t just sit back and say ‘isn’t it great what we’ve done?’.
“This shows that there are projects on-going into the future.”
Many of the schemes unveiled today will involve bringing vacant buildings back into use, including the borough council leasing the Maple Buildings, in Ash Street, to homeless charity, the Hope Centre.
And the council-owned 19th-century building at 13 Guildhall Road is set to be turned into a ‘boutique hotel’ by private developers.
1. Northampton Museum and Art Gallery
In April the Chronicle & Echo reported on plans for a £14m extension of the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, which will see the exhibition space doubled .
New galleries and facilities will also be created by extending the building backwards into the former ‘gaol’ block , which is currently part of the County Hall complex.
It will also include 400 sq ft of space for retail, food and drink.
The extension will be partly funded by the sale of the ancient Egyptian statue of Sekhemka, a limestone figure dating from around 2400BC, from the museum collection. It is estimated the statue could be sold at auction for between £4m and £6m.
2. Maple Buildings
The three-storey building at Ash Street, close to Oasis House, is to be taken over by The Hope Centre.
The homeless charity has been granted a 125-year lease by Northampton Borough Council and is expected to refurbish the building.
It is expected to use various parts of the building to deliver training and services, including catering, tool repair and electrical testing, which the borough council says will expand opportunities for homeless people in the borough and create employment opportunities.
The current top floor occupiers of the building, Northampton Amateur Boxing Club, is set to remain in the building. Its services are to be incorporated into the overall package offered by the Hope Centre.
3. Abington Park Museum
A refurbishment of Abington Park Museum is set to focus on the building’s connection with William Shakespeare, and on the history of the Northamptonshire Regiment.
The 16th-century manor house was once the home of Shakespeare’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Bernard, who is buried in the nearby church.
The refurbishment could see parts of the building, known as Abington Manor, opened up for use for functions such as conferences and weddings.
However, survey works are being carried out at the building before detailed proposals and costings are put together.
The borough council has already spent £50,000 on restoring windows and doors there, with funding being sought for interior works.
4. North Gate and East Gate
Two of the historic entrances to the town will be marked in a bid to enhance the cultural heritage of Northampton.
The town’s ‘gates’ were two of five that existed as part of a defensive wall between medieval times and 1669.
Eastgate is located at the junction of Abington Street, the Lower Mounts, York Road and Abington Square.
North Gate was situated on the site of the town’s new bus station.
Both sites are to be marked by signage and
interpretation boards telling the history of Northampton’s ancient fortifications.
Historical documents suggest the East Gate was large and embellished with shields of arms and other ornaments of stone work.
5. Boot & Shoe Quarter
The ‘historic core’ of Northampton’s boot and shoe industry in the Mounts area is to be recognised by designated signs to mark its boundary.
A steering group is to be set up to encourage the development of independent businesses, arts and activities in the area.
6. Business Incentive Scheme
A £250,000 scheme is to be set up to fund measures aimed at filling empty properties and to encourage small businesses in the town centre.
The scheme could see money invested in improving the appearance of the town centre and of shop fronts at both occupied and vacant stores.
The council will also aim to invest the remaining £100,000 into helping businesses take over vacant shops and premises.
7. Guildhall Road
Visual improvements are set to be made to Guildhall Road from September this year.
Pavements will be widened, which could allow pavement cafes outside the Royal & Derngate Theatre and street entertainment. Parking spaces will be created on both sides of the road.
There are also plans to redevelop the council-owned Victorian property at 13 Guildhall Road.
Private developers are set to turn the Grade II listed building into a ‘boutique hotel’ including a ‘high quality restaurant and up to ten rooms.
8. Vulcan Works
More than £5m is set to be spent at the former Vulcan Iron Works site, to turn it into a new hub for creative industries, with managed workshops and studios as well as retail and entertainment spaces.
The grade II listed building is to be opened out into 70 potential business outlets, creating in the region of 120 jobs.
As the site is in the Enterprise Zone, businesses would benefit from lower rates.
Work would begin in 2015 and take two years to complete.
Funding would be sought from the European Regional Development Fund.
PLANS TO IMPROVE TOWN’S LINK TO PAST
Northampton’s shoe-making heritage and its ancient fortifications are to be recognised in the latest round of Alive regeneration projects.
Signage around the Mounts area of the town, in a similar scheme to that seen in the Cultural Quarter, are to highlight the area’s link to its former industrial mainstay.
The town’s former east and north ‘gates’, once part of the town’s medieval-built town wall, will also be recognised by information boards and signposts.
Councillor Mackintosh, said: “This allows us to tell the town’s story in a way that’s actually not been told properly for many years.
“To bring people into the town you need to have things that attract people in and interest them.”
Work will begin this year, to coincide with the 850th anniversary of the signing of the town’s charter.