Building work has started on a £1.5m church hall and community hub following three years of planning and fundraising.
The exciting project at St Mary’s-Without-the-Walls Church, Handbridge , will see the run-down church hall replaced with a bigger and better building.
And the new facility will serve the needs of the church and the community at large, especially south of the river.
St Mary’s Handbridge Centre will comprise a main hall, two community rooms, a cafe and a medical consultation room for the adjacent surgery, which has limited space, together with a 32-space car park.
The vision is supported by Chester MP Chris Matheson , Lord Mayor of Chester Razia Daniel s, Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC), The Westminster Foundation and Eaton Estate ( Duke of Westminster ), who own the site, and the NHS .
Completion is expected in June 2018.
A spokesperson for the project said: “The money raised so far covers the building of the new centre. Because building costs tend to increase considerably over time, a substantial loan of £250,000 has been taken out to enable building to start this year. This loan will obviously have to be repaid through additional fundraising or the income generated by the new centre once it is in full use.
“We are, however, still actively fundraising to cover the costs of fitting out the new building and £100,000 is still required to achieve this.”
A huge fund-raising boost will come from Eaton Estate which has sold the grade II-listed 1895 building opposite St Mary’s Church, historically known as the Boys’ Club, from which Chester Youth Club ran for many years. All proceeds will go towards the new community centre although the amount has not been disclosed.
It has been sold to supporters of Chester-based not-for-profit organisation Gro Space, a social enterprise which will provide a co-working facility for start-ups in the city, particularly those working in the visual arts.
Rupert Collis, estate manager at the Eaton Estate, part of the Grosvenor Estate, said: “We are delighted that not only will the new community centre receive further funding from the estate, 1 Overleigh Road will also continue to be used to support the community and provide new opportunities to people.
“The Westminster Foundation, which represents the giving of the Grosvenor Estate, has already donated £50,000 to the new community centre which we believe will provide a more suitable and sustainable facility for the community and we will now also donate all the proceeds of the sale.”
The property will be used by the purchasers to provide a tenancy to Gro Space which aims to provide a co-working hub where graduates and visual artists can share knowledge and skills for the benefit of the wider community.
Andrew Davey, director of Gro Space, added: “We are really excited about the potential this project has to bring a positive impact to Handbridge and Chester. Being a social enterprise we have community and collaboration at heart, we will be exploring ways to make this prominent building a community asset once again.”
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