Proposals by Thanet council to buy a Ramsgate town centre property to create meeting rooms, offices, creative studios, café-bar, gallery and arts shop will be discussed by Cabinet members next week.
Members are expected to give approval for property and regeneration directors at the authority to complete negotiations for the purchase of a town centre site within a £1.31million externally funded budget.
The money is allocated out of a £2.7million Future High Street Fund which was granted for Ramsgate in 2020 and secured in May 2021 and the £19.8m Levelling Up Fund granted in 2021.
The aim is to provide more workspace in the town centre for creative industries, bringing an empty building back into use and providing a community hub.
This would include 96 workspaces specifically for use by individuals and businesses in the creative industries sector. The site will also provide a central focal point for creative and cultural enterprise, education, training and community engagement.
Proposals were initially for Thanet council to take the lease for Celandine Hall in Harbour Street but there were delays. The property, whose owners had received Heritage Action Zone funding for property renovations, was subsequently leased to The Modern Boulangerie which opened at the site in November.
A report to Cabinet members says two further sites were identified to lease and purchase but the attempts “have been frustrated, with the property owners citing unacceptable rental and purchase offers for one, and the landlord becoming unresponsive on the other asset.”
An issue had been due to property owners deeming the council valuations to be below market value. The figures had been based on data relating to sold prices from 2019 and 2020;.
Thanet council says offers will now be made using wider metrics, such as rental income or residential development potential.
The report adds that another property has now been identified and a valuation undertaken. The next steps would be to make a formal offer, subject to a structural survey and instructing the council’s legal team.
A design team has been commissioned to develop a scheme for the building, in anticipation of an acquisition, with a March 2024 deadline for delivery.
A Ramsgate Town Centre study undertaken by Oneday Regen in May 2022 and included in a previous Cabinet report, said: ‘The exceptions [to Ramsgate’s progress in lettings across the high street] being the largest units, in particular New Look and Argos. With the decline in the chain retail market and current leases in place with the former tenants these units are likely to remain vacant unless the council intervenes… uses should be considered to address the shortage of alternative uses such as culture and leisure.’”
Cabinet members will discuss the purchase at the meeting on March 2.