Oxford City Council has developed new plans to redevelop East Oxford Community Centre – increasing the investment in the scheme by 60% and the amount of floor space for community groups by a fifth.
The previous plan for a £2.3m redevelopment of the Princes Street community centre included a refurbishment of old school and the Fusion Arts building, and a new two-storey building for film and music studios, offices and community space.
Three-fifths of users and residents backed the £2.3m proposals during a consultation last year, but councillors agreed to look at possible ways to increase the budget and provide more community space on the site.
The new plans will involve an increase in investment in the project to £3.7m. In addition to the refurbishment of the old school and the new two-storey building, the new scheme will include the demolition of the Fusion Arts building, replacing it with a new two-storey building for community use, and the creation of a better outdoor amenity space.
Overall, this will increase the floor space for community and arts groups by approximately 20 per cent compared to the previous proposal.
The redevelopment was to be funded through the sale of the nearby East Oxford Games Hall and Film Oxford sites, along with a section of the East Oxford Community Centre site, for housing. This would have generated £1.6m, which the City Council planned to top-up by investing a further £700,000.
But new estimates of the land value – based on increasing the residential density at the three sites, and potentially including some student accommodation on the Princes Street site – mean that an additional £2.6m could be generated to pay for the enhanced scheme.
However, even with the new income and the City Council's £700,000 capital allocation, there is currently a £400,000 funding gap that will need to be filled to make the new proposals work financially. Oxford City Council and the users of the centre are now working together to explore how this gap could be filled.
The City Council’s City Executive Board will meet on Tuesday 21 November to discuss the new proposals.
East Oxford Community Centre needs to be redeveloped because part of the site’s B block, at the back of the site, and part of the Chinese Community Centre, along Princes Street, are dilapidated. Part of the Chinese Community Centre has been condemned and is no longer open to the public.
The City Council held a month-long consultation on the future of the community centre last October, offering residents and users a choice of redevelopment options – ranging from a minor refurbishment up to the £2.3m refurbishment and redevelopment scheme.
The three options came from a year-long independent study that was commissioned by the City Council to find out what was feasible at the site.
The study found that a £2.3m refurbishment and redevelopment was the most viable solution, and 60 per cent of those who took part in the consultation agreed or strong agreed with the option. There will be more opportunities for residents to have their say on the proposals as they progress.
More information about the three options and last year’s consultation results can be found here.
During and after last year’s consultation, centre users and local residents asked for time to search for other funding opportunities to raise £1m plus for the redevelopment. These grant funding opportunities are only available to arts and cultural groups, and therefore not Oxford City Council.
The City Council gave Film Oxford and Fusion Arts, which will be the largest users of the new community centre, six months to win the funding, and supported the bid by providing officers to help write the grant applications and funding for professional advice from external consultants.
Whilst bids to date have not yielded any funds, the two groups, along with the City Council, are hopeful of raising smaller amounts of money to support with the project in the future.
Councillor Dee Sinclair, Executive Board Member for Culture and Communities, said: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create successful modern facilities at East Oxford Community Centre, so we are making sure we get it right”.
"During the public consultation last year, residents and users asked us to explore other opportunities to increase the budget for the redevelopment scheme. City Council officers and community centre users have been working together over the last year to achieve this, and these new proposals are the result."
For more information about East Oxford Community Centre, visit www.oxford.gov.uk/eocc.