Get Open open! Calls for new use to be found for former charity building

Calls have been made to find a new community use for the former Open building

Calls have been made to find a new community use for the former Open building - Credit: Archant

It's been more than 18 months since the OpenYouth Trust went under - leaving a large void in the city centre.

But despite various expressions of interest and offers on the table, the prominent Norwich building it occupied remains empty and disused.

Now the call from former occupants of the building is this: find a new use and get Open open.

While the liquidated charity was the main occupant of the building, it also housed several other organisations and social enterprises including the constituency offices of Norwich South MP Clive Lewis.

Mr Lewis is among those calling for the building to be put back into good use - but in a way that the public can have access to it.

He said: "The social ecosystem there when it was open was fantastic and it was truly a real asset to the community so it is frustrating to see it sitting empty.

"You can never have enough community space in the city centre and I would strongly urge something to be done with the building to favour the local community and benefit the city."

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With the building's size and versatility it could be put to a large range of different uses. However, Mr Lewis said he was keen for whatever new purpose it gets to be accessible to the wider community - instead of being converted for residential use.

He added: "It would be a real shame to see it become something exclusive that the community doesn't have access to, like luxury apartments for example. It needs to return to being a community resource."

Jo Myers, creative director for the Echo Youth Theatre group, which was also made homeless by the closure, said she too was keen to see it put to good use.

She said: "When it was open it was a fantastic, multi-functional space for a group like ours - we were able to use it for rehearsals and do all kinds of performances, there just isn't a space in the city as flexible as it.

"We used it for more traditional performances but were also able to give more immersive experiences and shows in the round.

"It really is a crying shame for it to still be empty after all this time. It is in a prime location and such a beautiful building.

"There really should be some kind of way of making it a useful and vibrant place again - although it is a massive building so a huge commitment for whoever takes it on."

Since the building was vacated there have been some expressions of interest in it, including a proposal from the owners of Epic Studios.

However, while this interest is still there, it remains to be seen whether an agreement can be reached between the studio and the Lind Trust, which owns the building.

Speaking in April, Graham Dacre, one of the trustees of the Lind Trust, said it would listen to any proposal that would make use of the empty building on Bank Plain.

He said: "As trustees, we certainly hope the building is used for community purposes that benefit young people in the region.

"We welcome any suggestions or partnerships with other local charities or statutory organisations and we would love to see the building up and running in a new use."

Guy Gowing, managing partner of chartered surveyors Arnolds Keys said the building's size could be one of the main barriers to finding a new use for it.

He said: "The sheer size and magnitude of the building does limit the type of use it could have - if it were to remain a concert venue for example there are only so many organisations out there that could manage it.

"However, it is a very good building and I'm confident a use can be found - I'm just the trust is just considering what the best approach for it would be."

Any interested parties are encouraged to contact Neil Quinsey at The Lind Trust on 01603 262626.


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