A major transformation has started to convert a historic industrial site in Coventry into a new £2.4 million creative hub for artists in time for UK City of Culture 2021.
Scaffolding has now gone up and construction work has begun on the Daimler Powerhouse, once home to the world-famous car factory on the edge of the city centre in Radford, which is being transformed into the first purpose-built and collaborative art production facility in the city.
Wigley Building and Development, the construction arm of The Wigley Group, which owns Sandy Lane Business Park where the site is based and is a significant funder of the scheme, is undertaking the works for planned completion in March 2021.
The former centre of engineering excellence will become a centre of creative excellence, providing dedicated spaces for artists and resident creative companies led by Imagineer Productions which has been based on site for over a decade.
It will be focused on outdoor arts, theatre and working with young and emerging artists, and will play an integral part in supporting UK City of Culture 2021 as a production centre for major performance works.
Charlie Brooks, construction director at Wigley Building and Development, said: “It is a building of such historical importance that a major part of the scheme is retaining its character and features, such as the brickwork arches and gantry cranes.
“The first phase is ensuring it is structurally sound and stable for the future, and going forward we will be integrating its industrial past with all the requirements of a modern creative hub which will see it take on new importance in the city.”
Jane Hytch, chief executive of Imagineer Productions, said: “This project has been a dream for over 10 years. The Daimler Building has special historical significance to the city and sited on the canal pathway which is fast opening up to be a place of leisure and creativity in Coventry.
“Daimler will become a much-needed, dedicated working space for many artists and companies in the city, and an important legacy to City of Culture 2021. “This project would not have been possible without the support of our funders and supporters, with huge thanks to The Wigley Group, Coventry City Council, Coventry City of Culture Trust, Coventry and Warwickshire LEP, Medwell Hyde, The Foyle Foundation, The Garfield Weston Foundation, The May 29th 1961 Charity, Dreoilin and The Godiva Awakes Trust.”
The redevelopment is being funded with £1.9 million from the Cultural Capital Investment Fund which is resourced from Coventry City Council and the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Deal.
The Wigley Group is contributing a further £350,000 as well as a highly-discounted 20-year lease on Daimler Powerhouse, along with a neighbouring building.
Daimler Powerhouse is seen as the first stage in a planned regeneration of the wider site which encompasses Sandy Lane Industrial Estate, also owned by The Wigley Group.
The Wigley Group is developing a masterplan to transform Sandy Lane Industrial Estate into Daimler Wharf, a vibrant new neighbourhood for living and work, culture and leisure, designed to complement Daimler Powerhouse and benefit the wider community.
James Davies, managing director of The Wigley Group, said: “After ten years of hard work and collaboration with both Imagineer Productions and Coventry City Council, we are delighted to see work starting on site to create a cultural legacy.
“The Wigley Group is a proud supporter of UK City of Culture 2021 and has been a major contributor to enable this development to happen, and we are incredibly proud that Wigley Building and Development is now delivering what will be a tremendous asset for that year and beyond.”
Zamurad Hussain, board director at the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), said: “The Growth Deal from the Government provides funds to LEPs for projects that benefit their local area and economy and this scheme will achieve both of those objectives.
“This initiative will be a fantastic addition to the creative arts scene in Coventry as we countdown to being the UK City of Culture 2021 as well as providing a real boost to a sector which has been badly affected by Covid-19.”
Councillor Tariq Khan, Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, added: “This is an excellent partnership project that will help nurture local creative businesses, and will be accessible to local communities.
“It will have a long-term impact on the city for the UK City of Culture year and in the years ahead.”