Work has started on the first part of a multi-million pound project to regenerate a key area of Hartlepool.
The work includes the conversion of the Grade 2-listed former Post Office building in Whitby Street into a new £3m business centre.
Called The BIS, the centre will encourage business start-ups in the creative industries and provide them with specialist support. The conversion is being funded by the Tees Valley Combined Authority.
Gus Robinson Developments will undertake the work, which will involve refurbishment and extension of the Grade 2-listed building to create 28 studio units of various sizes, including a mix of workshops and office space.
Other facilities will include meeting rooms and a shared social space which can also be used for events and exhibitions.
The Council will run the centre with the support of Cleveland College of Art & Design, which recently opened its new £8m campus in neighbouring Church Street.
The BIS is expected to open its doors next summer. It’s part of wider plans by the Council and its partners to regenerate key areas of the town under the banner of the Hartlepool Vision.
Councillor Kevin Cranney, chair of the Council’s Regeneration Services Committee, said: “There’s a wealth of fantastic young talent coming out of Hartlepool’s colleges and this great new centre will help to keep those young people in the town when they graduate.
“The BIS will provide an ideal environment in which new businesses in the creative industries can take root and grow, creating more local jobs and adding to Hartlepool’s reputation for new ideas and enterprise.”
Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, said: “Supporting start-up businesses, which can create employment and be part of the economic growth of the Tees Valley, is essential and this new centre will be a valuable resource for the area.
“The Tees Valley has a strong digital and creative sector, led by talented and skilled local people who will benefit greatly from this important regeneration project.”
Pat Chapman, vice principal (Employability and External Relations) at Cleveland College of Art & Design, said: “The BIS studio facilities are a significant step forward as the studios provide a stepping stone environment for graduates setting up their own creative business, where they will continue to get business development and support from the College and the Council.
“In addition, whilst more than 80% of CCAD graduates stay in the North-East, there has been a gap in the market for suitable workspace in Hartlepool and the wider Tees Valley. The BIS will ensure that more creative businesses and graduates will locate and stay in Hartlepool - a real boost for the local economy.”