Mansfield's former Beales department store has been purchased to provide a new multi-agency civic hub as part of the Mansfield District Council’s ambitious, long term town centre regeneration plans.
The scheme – “Mansfield Connect” - will be the new headquarters for the council and is expected to house a variety of other public, educational, enterprise and health and wellbeing services, alongside spaces for private sector occupiers such as food and drink outlets.
Mansfield District Council has taken the initiative and purchased the premises to enhance the bid to the Government's Levelling Up Fund (LUF) to help re-invigorate the town centre.
Mansfield Connect will form a central part of the bid and would see the council relocating from the Civic Centre, with that site being made available for redevelopment.
To date, the Department for Work and Pensions, Nottinghamshire County Council, Vision West Nottinghamshire College, Nottingham Trent University, NHS health partners, and volunteering co-ordinator the CVS have all expressed interest in being involved in the new hub.
As well as improving the delivery of public services by providing a range of agencies accessible under one roof, it is envisaged that the new hub would generate extra footfall in the town centre which would benefit existing retailers and help drive regeneration, with the hub being a catalyst to stimulate private sector investment in both the day and night time economy in the town centre.
The scheme forms part of the council’s wider ambitions for the town, demonstrated by the emerging Town Centre Masterplan and broader Mansfield District Council strategies promoting Growth, Aspiration, Wellbeing and Place.
Executive Mayor Andy Abrahams said: "We believe repurposing this redundant retail space in Mansfield town centre fulfils all the ambitions of the Government's Levelling Up Fund and by purchasing the building now, we believe this will strengthen the council's bid.
"Consolidating public services in one town centre space makes so much sense, for both the delivery of those services to our community, and the wider economic benefits for the town centre. We are doing everything within our power to satisfy the requirements of the LUF bid criteria so we can move forward at pace when we are, hopefully, successful.
"Mansfield really needs this kind of ambitious re-imagining of its shopping streets to a mixed-use town centre if it is to build a bright future and encourage inward investment. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our town's fortunes and prospects for the better."
The council can submit one MP-backed bid to the LUF either for an individual project or a package of measures, focusing on capital investment in local infrastructure and building on existing Local Growth Fund and Towns Fund supported programmes.
Under the first round of the LUF, local authorities could seek up to £20m of funding, with the support of the local MP, seeing funding targeted towards places with the most significant needs in terms of economic recovery, regeneration and growth and improved transport and connectivity.
Mansfield has been ranked at level one out of three by the Government, putting it amongst those areas with the greatest need.
The council has qualified for £125,000 in funding to help draw up its LUF bid and improve its chances of success in the anticipated next round of bids, an announcement about which is expected in the spring from the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities.
A Mansfield Connect Steering Group is guiding the project and the council has engaged project management specialists ARC Partnership to support its initial development, feasibility, costings and design options.
Additional support in building a business case for the scheme and for the LUF bid has been secured from Partnering Regeneration Development Ltd.
The work will see a close collaboration with consultants Allies & Morrison who are working with the council on the emerging Town Centre Masterplan and Severn Trent’s Green Recovery Flood Resilience Project.