Councillors were asked to approve Mastcraft as the council’s preferred development partner. This could ensure that the magnificent neo-gothic building will continue to be at the heart of the borough's civic life for the next two centuries and beyond.
The building’s two most iconic rooms, the Victoria Hall and Council Chamber will be preserved as part of an 18-month extensive refurbishment to reconfigure the underused building. The council would retain the east wing of the building for civic use and marriage ceremonies with part of the west wing turned into a boutique hotel.
In addition to the ongoing use of the Victoria Hall, there could be a further eight areas within the building available for public hire. As part of the agreement, community groups would continue to be offered a discount to hire rooms during off peak periods. Price increases would be capped at a maximum of 20% above the existing hire rates for the first five years. This reflects the council’s desire for the continued use of the building by the local community and businesses. The council would also be given free use of the Victoria Hall 10 times each year.
As part of the west wing hotel development there could be a restaurant, health and fitness centre, 4th floor roof terrace and a ground level cocktail bar with bistro leading out to Dickens Yard.
If the necessary planning permissions and consents are granted, the new look town hall and hotel could be reopened in early 2019.
The developer has made a commitment to recruit local people to work on the build and to work in the hotel once opened. The council will also ensure that the development partner offers apprenticeships to local young people.
Councillor Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council, said: “Ealing is fast becoming one of the capital’s most sought after areas with a town centre that combines the best of modern with traditional design. By attracting new investment to the area, our community is benefiting from new jobs, improved leisure and shopping facilities as well as much needed homes.
“Ealing Town Hall is a magnificent building that is well-loved locally but like all historic buildings it is very expensive to maintain and repair and is in considerable need of refurbishment. It is essential that we leave a legacy that assures its future at the civic heart of our community so that it can continue to accommodate a range of democratic, community and commercial activities that contribute to Ealing’s economic and cultural life in the 21st century and beyond.
“I am determined to find a way to preserve this historic building as a lasting legacy for the people of the borough while reducing the burden on council tax payers.”
To select the development partner the council undertook a procurement process that scored proposals against a set of criteria including: design and heritage refurbishment; provision of the space for democratic use and public hire; delivery of the scheme; long-term management and maintenance; financial strength and business plan; and financial return to the council.
The council would continue to own the freehold of the site, with the building leased to the development partner on a long lease. Mastcraft would be responsible for the ongoing external maintenance and repair costs of the whole building and internal costs for the section of the building it would manage. Once the building is operational the council expects the proposed deal to generate an annual return as well as reducing the amount of public money being spent to maintain and run the building.
While refurbishment and building works take place the town hall would be closed and services would be moved to other council buildings. The council has alerted local groups who regularly hire rooms in the town hall about the proposals and will provide advice to help them find alternative spaces to hire. Under the proposed agreement, the council’s costs of relocating its services from the town hall would be covered by an initial lump sum payment from the development partner.
Mastcraft is proposing that the hotel’s design and style would be similar to one of its other boutique hotels - the Courthouse Hotel, Shoreditch.
Girish Sanger, director of Mastcraft, said: “We are delighted that officers have recommended that Mastcraft Limited be selected as the council’s development partner. We are looking forward to working closely with the council and Historic England to transform Ealing Town Hall.
“We have recently opened the Courthouse Hotel in Shoreditch and we want Ealing Town Hall to mirror its sensitive, high-quality design. This was our second conversion of a Grade II listed Magistrates Court into a luxury hotel. We know that our previous experience of developing a heritage building will be invaluable. This project would be Mastcraft’s 11th hotel in the UK and 6th in London”.