City’s chiefs hope Irish community will rally behind £8m plan to make Wellington Rooms a technology and knowledge base
Call to Liverpool’s Irish to put new life and £8m into former Irish centre Once the pride of the Irish throughout the UK, since 1997 it has been a derelict ruin By Martin Mannering in Liverpool
For thirty years it was one of the most iconic venues in the north west and after several failed attempts it now appears that Liverpool may have a sustainable plan for the 200- year old former Irish Centre in the listed Wellington Rooms.
The building which first opened its doors in 1816 has had many uses in the time since but its glory days as the home of the Liverpool Irish Community that made it part of the city’s folklore.
After closing in the mid 90s due to spiralling running costs the Grade 2 listed building quickly fell into disrepair and has continued to degenerate since.
The building heads a National Heritage list of the most important historic buildings in Liverpool and has been on the Heritage at risk register since 1999.
Plans for a 48 bedroom hotel were submitted in 2006/07 but were refused on account of the damaging effect the proposed three story extension would have on the building’s special architectural and and historic interest. But now it appears that a solid and viable plan for the Mount Pleasant site may be in place.
The University of Liverpool and John Moores University have teamed up with Merseyside Building Preservation Trust and Liverpool City council with a plan to develop a business and innovation hub.
Professor Stephen Holloway Pro-vice chancellor at the University of Liverpool, Professor Robin Leatherbarrow Pro-vice chancellor at John Moores and Chris Musson from Liverpool Science Park which sits next door are driving the initiative.
Assistant City Mayor Councillor Nick Small said: (This is) a high priority building for the city council and this is a fantastic opportunity to bring it back into use. Supporting start up businesses and its location in the heart of the Knowledge quarter makes it ideal for a strong link to the Universities”.
As for maintaining links to the past he added: “I was a regular visitor to the Irish centre in my youth and it remains very close to my heart.
I would hope the Irish community in the city would play a prominent part in the development of the plan as we move forward”.
Chairman of the Merseyside Building Preservation Trust Bill Maynard also reflected on his time attending the venue,:”Not only is it a magnificent building with a fantastic history but I also have great personal memories of socialising at the Irish centre.
As well as becoming the gateway to the universities the Wellington rooms also have the space and potential to again be a prominent social venue”.
The city council’s planning department announced that a project team has been set up and a three year refurbishment costing between £6m and £8m is envisaged. It is hoped that a fair proportion of the cost would come from various funding allied to private investment.