New hope for Open building as talks over future revealed
- Credit: Abigail Nicholson
A year ago, Norwich youth charity Open went into liquidation, leaving one of the city's most prominent buildings empty.
Not only did it see the loss of a vitally important source of support for young people in the region, but also left the city an entertainment and conference venue light.
A year later and the instantly recognisable former banking hall on Bank Plain remains empty, with the coronavirus pandemic putting the brakes on any swift solution.
However, The Lind Trust, which owns the building, is hopeful it will soon be put back to good use, with talks over its future ongoing.
Graham Dacre, one of its trustees, said: "The bottom line is that over the year we have been able to do very little during the lockdown but we are looking at a couple of interesting proposals from third parties.
"We are talking to the Norwich University of the Arts as well as a third party operator for a similar use that it previously had."
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Mr Dacre added that the second interested party was keen on running the events side of the venue, which saw it previously used for concerts, conferences and other events.
He added: "The other third party is a local operator who is interesting in re-establishing a venue for the young people of Norwich."
It had previously been speculated that NUA could be an interested party, but, speaking in July, a spokesman for the university said the building was not part of its immediate plans.
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However, Mr Dacre said representatives from NUA had been shown around the premises and that talks were ongoing.
A spokesman for the university said: "Graham Dacre has been in touch with us as we believe he has been in touch with other people."
And while Mr Dacre said these two options were very much on the table, he added that further pitches would also be listened to as the trust looked to make best use of the empty building.
He added: "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."
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, whose office was previously in the building, said: "I'm really pleased the trust wants to keep it as a community space of some kind.
"As part of NUA it likely becomes something more limited in terms of the wider civil, community access.
"If it is a venue then that could mean it becomes an accessible public space again, which I would favour, although the term is quite broad and doesn't necessarily imply such access."
The building dates back to the 1700s and in 1779 became the headquarters of Gurney's Bank, when it was purchased by the family from wine merchant Alderman James Poole.
In 1896, it became part of Barclay and Co, with Barclays outgrowing the premises and building a banking hall on the site.
At one stage it was believed to be the largest banking counter in the United Kingdom and became Barclays' regional headquarters.
The Lind Trust bought the site from Barclays in 2003 and in 2005 the OPEN Youth Trust gained its charitable status.
However, with the charity going into liquidation a year ago this month, the venue closed down, along with the office space used by the charity.
A radio studio on-site used by community station Future was also taken out of action by the collapse, although the associated Closed storage facility, located in the former bank vaults, was saved.
The collapse left the Lind Trust in need of a new purpose for the building and Mr Dacre said it was still very much open to new ideas.
Any interested parties are encouraged to contact Neil Quinsey at The Lind Trust on 01603 262626.