An empty council-owned building in the city`s Old Market area is enjoying a new lease of life as a thriving community centre and arts space.
Trinity Community Arts has taken over the building at 6 West Street under a five-year lease arrangement which has seen it restored and converted to provide a new community meeting space, a cafÃ©, an art gallery, a ticket outlet and shop window for the Trinity Centre, offices and rooms for other community activities and affordable space for small start-up organisations.
Later this month the venue will host a new photography exhibition, After the Circus Leaves Town, and the grand opening of the Arts West Side CafÃ© at the centre. The exhibition will run from Friday, March 29 until Tuesday, April 12.
Bristol City Council currently leases more than 150 of its properties to voluntary and community organisations, often at reduced or minimal rents, or preferential terms. These arrangements range from short-term licences to long leases and this process is known as â€˜Community Asset Transfer`.
The council had a lot of interest from voluntary organisations in taking on the building but chose the proposal by Trinity Arts which already runs the Trinity Centre, a community centre and live music venue at the top of Old Market.
This provides services to Easton, Ashley and Lawrence Hill. The centre in Old Market will complement activities and events already happening at Trinity.
Trinity is working closely with local partners including the Old Market Community Association, the Bristol Gay Village Business and Residents` Association, the city council and Destination Bristol who are driving the Retail Sector Development Project. The retail project is seeking to help reinvigorate the Old Market High Street and improve the situation there for its businesses.
It is hoped that the new arts and community centre will help the drive to revitalise the Old Market area, increasing the number of daytime visitors.
Councillor Anthony Negus, Cabinet Member for Housing, Property Services and Regeneration, said: â€œThis project has been very well-received by members of the public and businesses in the Old Market area so far.
â€œThe hope is that it can play a part in the ongoing work to help revitalise the area and encourage more people to visit the area during the day. We want to match our buildings stock to the needs of communities, helping to reinforce them."
In this case, the council`s actions were informed by the knowledge that the local community did not have much of a visible presence and that there was a need for a small venue for the Old Market community. Officers sought the views of the local neighbourhood partnership and worked closely with the Old Market Community Association.
Councillor Negus added: "As well as providing a community meeting point, this building will also offer opportunities for new start-up businesses and a focus for arts and other community activities.
â€œRather than disposing of this property the council has opted to lease it out which brings a positive public benefit at no extra cost to taxpayers, helping to create stronger, more cohesive and more sustainable local communities.â€