City of Wolverhampton’s historic Civic Halls are set to undergo a £38 million overhaul to ensure they remain the jewels in the crown of the Black Country’s entertainment business.
Further in-depth surveys and reports have revealed structural, mechanical, electrical and engineering issues that could be detrimental to the future operation of the 80-year-old Grade II-listed building if left unattended.
Expanding the original improvement programme to make it a full restoration of the iconic halls has therefore been proposed.
As well as ensuring a top-quality entertainment venue for the next 25 years and beyond, independent consultants estimate the whole project will support 876 direct and indirect jobs, attract 440,000 visitors a year to the city, and bring £8.3 million worth of goods and services to the city.
For the full restoration to take place the building will have to remain closed until Autumn 2020, with a small number of events and acts already booked in for 2018 offered the chance to relocate to alternative venues in the city.
The plan was approved by City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Resources Panel on Tuesday and must be officially agreed by Full Council on January 31.
If approved, the increase of £23.6 million on the project will be mainly funded by the sale of surplus council land and buildings. There is also a strong potential to secure external grants and funding from regional and national bodies.
Cabinet Member for City Economy, Councillor John Reynolds, said: “The Civic Halls are a very special place.
“Generations of Wulfrunians and music and comedy fans from across the UK have shared unforgettable memories here with international stars and the biggest bands.
“This year, the Civic is celebrating its 80th birthday and remains to this day hugely important to our city’s economic well-being.
“Every year it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, brings in millions of pounds and supports hundreds of jobs.
“Given the mammoth magnitude of the issues uncovered by our contractors, it’s fair to say that the full restoration work we are now proposing is a very different project from the original one.
“However, a thriving and vibrant Civic Halls – that continues to draw people from all over the country – is a key part of our vision for a successful city.
“We believe we need to make this important commitment to secure jobs and investment and to give the city a venue it can be proud of for generations to come.”
The original improvement scheme included increased seating through new balconies, improved and new bar and hospitality areas, ventilation, lifts and better access to the Wulfrun Hall.
The full restoration will also deliver vital structural, mechanical, electrical and engineering work to ensure a top-quality performer and audience experience.
Significant structural changes are required to accommodate the extra weight of mechanical and electrical equipment, as well as repairs to the fabric of the building.
Asbestos requiring removal to facilitate core works is also more extensive than anticipated prior to initial opening-up works.
Building defects are significant and require immediate attention, such as roof repairs and re-tiling, lift replacement, building fabric and parapet repairs.
Security, alarms and emergency lighting also requires comprehensive replacement; and the additional counter terrorism measures, following recent national events, have impacted on the cost of the scheme.