There’s hope at last for iconic building
5:30am Friday 4th July 2014 in By Mike Benke, @Michael_Benke
PROGRESS is being made on plans that could see one of the most iconic buildings in Old Town returned to its former glory.
The Corn Exchange, also known as the Locarno, is a grade II listed building and has been standing empty for decades.
Now negotiations are taking place that could see the site become an 82-bedroom hotel alongside 49 homes and commercial space.
It is hoped that when the development is completed it will be the new heart of Old Town, and talks are taking place between the landowners and a developer.
While much of the details are being kept under-wraps for commercial purposes, some of the contributions the council is making have been revealed.
Last week the cabinet agreed to enter into an agreement with the landowners to combine their respective lands so as to make a combined development.
On top of that, they are also considering compulsory purchase orders on a number of properties in the area.
Those being considered are the Forum on Marlborough Road, which houses a branch of HSBC, the Masons building and some other properties along Marlborough Road. These will only go ahead if needed and the cost will be paid by either the owner of the Corn Exchange or the developer.
Support of up to £1m is being made available to assist with the development by the council, although this must be given in such a way that does not constitute state aid.
A sum of up to £350,000 will also be spent on upgrading the pavements and road network to make it more pedestrian friendly.
The council will then look to recoup this money from profits made in the commercial aspect of the development.
“We believe it is very important that it is restored and a deal is hopefully close to being successfully negotiated.
“It is between two private companies so the council can only get involved so far but we are looking to help out where we can.”
Plans for the grade II-listed building were put on display for several weeks last summer and received widespread support.
A number of proposals had previously been put forward but were rejected or fell through.
Upon seeing the proposals Martha Parry, the chairwoman of Swindon Civic Voice, said: “We are pleased to see that a proper approach has now been taken, to understanding the historic character and significance of this area.
“The analysis has been done carefully and is a long way forward from past proposals.”
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