The developer of a new visitor destination in Wirral is working hard to keep the project on track to aid the area’s recovery once the current coronavirus situation has passed.
The Beacon Arts Village development project on the site of Hoylake’s Victorian former town hall started in October 2019, following a grant of £3.64m from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund, which is designed to help seaside places flourish and strengthen their appeal as places to live, work and visit.
Developer and owners of the site Hylgar Properties have continued construction work during the national lockdown to ensure that critical works were completed in time and that the building was made safe and weatherproof in the event of a complete shutdown.
All works have been proceeding in line with coronavirus national safety guidelines which have enabled the retention of jobs on the site, as well as keeping the project on track for an opening towards the end of 2020.
The Beacon Arts Village will feature a two-screen cinema, a fine dining restaurant, bar and café bistro, as well as 18 creative studio and retail spaces for artists and makers around a central courtyard. In subsequent phases upper floors of the development will provide 40 apartments, using private funding.
Dave Burke, of Hylgar Properties, said: “Throughout this period our thoughts have been with all those local businesses, and our neighbours, who are finding current events very difficult.
"From the start, the Beacon project has been developed to help inject new life into the town, as well as to deliver sustainable economic growth and job creation for generations to come. With everything going on in the world right now, once it’s all over, The Beacon will be needed more than ever. We are fortunate that the Government is helping to fund the project, which will make it a new safe business and we are very hopeful that, when complete, it will help accelerate Hoylake’s recovery and we will be playing our part in supporting the economy in Hoylake and Wirral West.
“It is, though, impossible to say now when we will be opening, because our focus is ensuring that we are keeping everyone safe on site while continuing the work in the best and most efficient way we can.
“We have had to adjust our plans, as everyone has in adjusting to this new way of life and however long this situation and its after-effects persist, we are hopeful of delivering some positive news for the area by the end of the year.”
It’s a project that will aid Hoylake high street’s recovery from the pandemic, according to Mark Howard, volunteer director of Hoylake Village Life and Chair of Hoylake Vision Community Planning Forum.
He said: “This development will be a key factor in Hoylake’s recovery and the rebuilding of our high street together as a community. The Beacon’s potential as a transformational project could prove crucial to Hoylake’s fortunes and it cannot be understated, that it will be vital to the town’s future, and the appeal of Wirral, in the coming years.
“The Beacon Arts Village will create something really special for the area which will help boost confidence in the local economy, and provide some certainty for the future at a time when we need it most, and help us to move forward after the pandemic.”
The first phase of works on the 1898 building is now complete and included internal and external demolitions and construction, including new roofing. The restaurant and bar, a new build kitchen and a newly formed covered courtyard with kitchen space is on the ground floor. The first floor will consist of a two-screen cinema, with acoustic installation, a newly constructed lavatory block and refurbished creative industry office/studio spaces.
The cinema, which will be independently operated, will screen a wide range of films, with latest mainstream releases screening alongside some of the best independent films from around the world. There will also be live streamed ‘event’ cinema as well as carefully curated classics, building on the heritage of the hugely popular Hoylake Community Cinema which closed its doors in 2019 to make way for the new cinema.
The project is creating more than 140 jobs during design, construction and operation.
The tenant mix for the creative units is managed by Hoylake-based international artist Terry Duffy, Chair of the British Art and Design Association, who has more than 30 years of experience creating arts communities in Liverpool and London. This will ensure the right combination of practitioners with varying levels of experience are working in the scheme to maximise personal development, skills exchange and collaborative working.
Since 2012, the Coastal Communities Fund has invested £228 million into 395 projects UK-wide.