Agenda item

Old Library Building: Restoration and Refurbishment Phase 2


Consideration was given to a report of the Executive Director for Place and Economic Growth which sought approval to proceed to the next stage of the Old Library Building: Restoration and Refurbishment Phase 2.

The report provided details of the work already undertaken at the Old Library site including demotion and strip out, extensive programmes of surveys and investigations and the current position works undertaking the restoration and conservations works to the external fabric of the building.

During February 2021 a priority works schedule addressing the most significant conservation issues affecting the Old Library building capturing the most disruptive structural and fabric interventions requited to present the building for a future fit out was approved.

Approval was given to award the priority works contract to Tilbury Douglas Construction and work started on site in December 2021. During May 2022 approval was given to issue a works contract modification to enable additional works to be undertaken.

The feasibility option assessment set out the following parameters for the Old Library accommodation goals;

·         Public, community space and meeting rooms on the ground floor

·         Enhanced / available space for community groups to collaborate from across arts, culture and performance and who need more space to deliver their activities and services. 

·         Additional gallery space on the upper floor as there is connecting bridge to the existing Gallery

·         Civic space – Council Chamber, mayoral chamber, member rooms, committee meeting rooms and executive office space for officers / support staff.

The Strategic Business Case (SBC) had been developed to understand the value in utilising baseline future use assessments and this document set out the procurement and development strategy for the Old Library restoration and refurbishment phase 2.  The SBC documentation (appended to the part b paper) sets out:

·         What is the rational for the project, case for change and the business need

·         Indicative costs and phasing

·         Procurement and delivery strategy

·         Financial implications

·         Links to corporate strategy/asset management

The lead consultant will be responsible for the co-ordination of the design of the project and for the appointment, coordination, management, and programming of the activities of the Design Team. 

A procurement exercise has also been completed for the external project management team, cost consultant and principal designer.


Options/Alternatives considered

Option 1 – proceed to the next stage of project development

·         Note the completed Strategic Business Case (SBC) and agree to its approval as the basis of the delivery of the preferred facility mix for the Old Library restoration and refurbishment Phase 2.

·         Authorise formal agreement and award of the contract(s) in the configuration set out in this report for the next stage of project development.

Option 2 – Carry out further accommodation analysis:to undertake further future uses / accommodation analysis it would be necessary to carry out a further review of the Councils accommodation needs and strategic ambitions.

Objectives would need to be re-set and opportunities to drive programme, design and construction efficiencies would not be realized. Project development would-be put-on hold and the outturn cost for re-development of the Old Library would likely increase.

Future uses could span into private / third sector solutions and would result in different options being needed for civic / corporate services.  Programme, cost uncertainty, timescales and strategic objectives would be put at risk if this option was to be considered further.

Option 3 – do not progress phase 2 proposals at this time.  By undertaking the external fabric restoration works, the Council would have invested significantly into addressing the deterioration of the condition of the building and it will be possible, on completion of the phase 1 work, to secure the building pending consideration of other options.

As with other listed heritage buildings on Union Street, the local community do not want these buildings to stand empty, especially given the investment committed to-date in ensuring a long-term future.

Maintaining public access and bringing heritage buildings back into use are known priorities and this is a driving factor in consideration of the options available.

Option 4 - Dispose of the building following completion of the current phase 1 works:By undertaking the external fabric restoration works, the Council would have invested significantly into the development of a long-term future for the Old Library building.

However, it may not be possible to achieve any interest in the market with a specified and deliverable use without a commitment to invest the further resources (time and financial) needed to complete a fully occupiable building. It is anticipated that the Council would have to include a significant grant award (£millions) to any potential bidder as part of a disposal package. 

Concerns and risks were noted that any successful bidder, even with the Council grant award, could take ownership of the building without securing an acceptable end use or timeline for reinvestment. Creating a Better Place strategic objective would be put at risk.


RESOLVED – That the Cabinet would consider the commercially sensitive information contained at Item 14 before making a decision.


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