CHESTER’S town hall is to be transformed into a cultural and civic centre at the heart of the city.
Cheshire West and Chester Council are to spend £2 million on the phased project designed to ‘breathe fresh life’ into the Chester’s former local government centre.
The announcement coincides with the sale of County Hall to the University of Chester.
The £10m-plus deal will trigger the movement of hundreds of local government workers to the new HQ building by June 2010 as County Hall becomes the centre of the University’s Faculties of Education and Children’s Services and Health & Social Care.
The council will soon announce its choice of consultants to undertake the study into the feasibility into a £30 million state of the art theatre and conference centre on the near by Little Roodee.
Council leader Mike Jones said: “The city’s residents, business community and retailers have told us that Chester needs kick-starting into life if it is to have a future as a tourist and retail centre.
Work has already started on a major refurbishment of the fabric town hall, which in addition to its traditional role as the Lord Mayor’s civic base will also house a state of the art tourist information centre, function and performance facilities, together with a heritage display.
The council has stressed that the development has no bearing on the review of the services provided by Chester History and Heritage based at St Michael’s church on Bridge Street.
It is expected that the phased programme of work will allow the town hall to reopen to the public next Spring although its transition may not be completed by that time.
Cllr Richard Short, Executive Member, Culture and Recreation, said: “We can not undo years of stagnation at a stroke but we are certainly attempting to give Chester a firm foundation for progress when the financial climate finally improves”.