Two landmark sites could be converted to welcome digital and creative businesses as part of plans to modernise Southport town centre.
The latest stage of Southport’s Town Deal bid for £50m government funding has been revealed and is designed to attract the emerging tech sector to the town.
Stage one of the plan will see a new business incubator space, provisionally named as “Enterprise Hub”, created inside empty units at Crown Buildings inside Cambridge Walks – the shopping arcade which houses the Entertainer, Hungry Monk and Tap and Bottles.
The council owned building is largely vacant and the conversion is not likely to require a huge outlay.
A second aspect of the plan would see a large and empty town centre building bought from private ownership and repurposed as an “Enterprise Store”. This would be seen as a “move-on” space from the Enterprise Arcade and allow the firms to keep growing but remain in the town centre.
The Visiter understands that talks are already ongoing with owners of possible sites, with the former McDonald’s restaurant on Eastbank Street and the empty Debenhams and Beales sites among those being considered.
The aim of the transformations is to attract new businesses to the town and boost footfall a declining area of Southport’s town centre.
The so called Enterprise Store will feature a near 3,000m2 flexible workspace, allowing for event and networking space to encourage cross collaboration, innovation and business growth, can house around 54 creative, digital and rech focused SMEs in co-working and private office spaces.
Those behind the proposals say that the two projects will “support the development of a focused creative and digital district in the town to play host to a vibrant cluster and community of businesses and like-minded individuals”.
They also say that the redeveloped Southport Market, near to the Enterprise Arcade, will in turn benefit from custom generated by the new business hubs, playing host to informal meet ups and socials which are known to be vital to the success of these collaborative business spaces.
Cllr Marion Atkinson, Labour cabinet member for regeneration and skills, said: “I’m delighted that, as part of the Southport Town Deal Bid, we will be able to repurpose and fill key empty properties in the town centre attracting more people to work in the town, supporting the retail and hospitality sector and providing more reasons for young people to stay and work in Southport.
“The Enterprise Arcade and Enterprise Store will offer a space for start-up businesses and entrepreneurs, creating a community for our existing and future talent.
“The designs won’t be like any other traditional workplace setting and will capture Southport’s distinctive entrepreneurial character.
“Together with the redevelopment of Southport Market, all three projects will work in tandem bringing new uses to underused and vacant buildings while generating substantial footfall to the area.
“Our bid has now been submitted and we have done everything in our power to make Southport an attractive proposition for the Government to invest in. Without Government support these fantastic schemes won’t go ahead. We eagerly await their response.”