THE historic subject of an LS Lowry painting is derelict and boarded up, but new proposals could bring Middlesbrough’s old town hall and clock tower back to life.
Tentative moves are underway to transform the Grade II Listed building, which has stood empty for about 15 years, into offices at an anticipated cost of more than £1m.
A one-year option being put forward by Middlesbrough Council to lease it to Tees Valley Community Foundation at a peppercorn rent for at least 25 years.
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The news has been welcomed by Rob Nichols, co-ordinator of Discover Middlesbrough, an annual festival celebrating the town, who said it had been ‘heartbreaking’ to see the historic landmark lying empty.
Built in 1846, the old town hall in Middlehaven accommodated a police station as well as a public meeting hall with gallery, but was replaced with the existing town hall on Albert Road in 1889.
The view of the old town hall and clock tower which were constructed at the centre of the new Middlesbrough town grid plan was captured with St Hilda's church in an oil painting by famous artist LS Lowry in 1959.
A report produced for the council's Executive Sub-committee for Property meeting on April 10 said: “Success of this proposal would see the resultant restoration of a building of major importance in Middlesbrough’s history and heritage, subsequently improving the image and future potential of the Middlehaven regeneration site.”
The report states it could be a prime candidate for the Heritage Lottery Fund’s new Heritage Enterprise Scheme which supports local enterprises rescue historic neglected buildings with grants available from £100,000 to £5m.
Mr Nichols said: “I am absolutely delighted at the prospect of Middlesbrough's old town hall being renovated and restored to its rightful position at the heart of the town.
“This iconic building once stood at the very epicentre of the emerging Infant Hercules, so restoring it to the hub of the community will be a strong symbol of rebirth.
“It is heart-breaking to see this historic landmark and a key part of our heritage deserted, empty and apparently neglected.
"This proposal will I'm sure be welcomed by everyone with any feeling for the roots of the town."