The project was halted in March last year when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, preventing the start of construction. Due to the added cost pressures on the construction sector from the Coronavirus crisis and Brexit implications a revised business case has now been developed to ensure phase two can proceed and is financially viable.
The works will support the Council’s Relighting Our City strategy by protecting a major capital investment project that will enable one of the city’s cultural gems to deliver further jobs and investment in Wolverhampton. The gallery, including the current upstairs café, will remain open during the phase two works.
A decision will be made on the plans for the art gallery by the Council’s Cabinet Resources Panel next Wednesday (20 January). Phase two works on the historic Lichfield Street venue will include relocating the café from the top floor to a larger ground floor location alongside a new kitchen area, and improvements to the St Peter’s Gardens entrance, helping accessibility.
The total budget for phase two is now £1,526,000, with the additional cost of £450,000 to be met by an Arts Council England KickStart grant for schemes impacted by Coronavirus of almost £160,000, plus additional borrowing which will be paid for by income generation from the refurbished gallery.
Councillor Stephen Simkins, City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Economy, said: “The art gallery is one of the city’s prized assets and we remain committed to phase 2 of the improvements despite the unprecedented financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit schemes across the globe, nationally and regionally.
“As with all of our major capital projects we will of course ensure it makes financial sense and is in the best interests of the people of Wolverhampton.
“Thanks to successful bids for external grants we are able to carry out these major improvements, which will enhance the visitor experience and allow the gallery to be used to its full potential in the future.
“With city events in the pipeline to draw people into Wolverhampton, culture forms a key part of our Covid recovery strategy these improvements will ensure the gallery continues to be a much-loved asset for everyone.
“It is another demonstration of confidence to invest in the city and the art gallery is a key component in the leisure offer for the city along with the Civic Halls and the Grand Theatre.”
Phase one saw the Sensing Sculpture room on the first floor transformed into an exhibition space that has enabled the gallery to host larger touring exhibitions such as the Natural History Museum’s World Wildlife Photographer of the Year. The spectacular Georgian Room was also fully refurbished, and the PA system and Wi-Fi connectivity improved.