Posted: Fri 21st Aug 2020

Council offices at town centre Crown Buildings set for wholesale refurbishment for people living in or visiting the wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Friday, Aug 21st, 2020

Council offices in Wrexham town centre could soon undergo a large scale modernisation and refurbishment.

In plans submitted on behalf of the local authority by Ainsley Gommon Architects and Read Construction, it is proposed that Crown Buildings is remodelled to “meet the council’s current and future needs whist incorporating much needed improvements in environmental performance.”

The four storey building, on the Bodhyfryd site, was built in the 1960s and has been described as “no longer fit for purpose” – with a “number of leaks” in recent years and “staff decanted” elsewhere due to the issues.

Asbestos has also been removed ahead of refurbishment works taking place.

As part of the plans the upper floors of the building would be “refurbished to provide flexible office accommodation with open plan areas, individual offices, meeting rooms and break out spaces, designed to accommodate modern working methods.”

The ground floor will also undergo renovation and will be used as a new centre for the social services.

Externally a number of changes are proposed, including the creation of a new main entrance to the building. This would be located at the north of the site and accessed from the Waterworld car park.

A small extension is also proposed to provide café facilities for visitors to the building. Along with a feature ‘public realm’ space is also proposed to the north of the building “to draw people in off Chester Street and reinforce the pedestrian route round to the new main entrance.”

Details provided by the applicants in the design and access statement, say: “Externally, a scheme of elevation enhancement is proposed, with new PPC aluminium double glazed windows, combined with PPC aluminium rainscreen panels in two copper colours, fitted over the concrete panels in a random pattern to break up the massing of the elevation.

“The new main entrance is highlighted in a colour reminiscent of oxidised copper, picking up on design cues from the nearby Waterworld building.

“Standing seam metal cladding is proposed vertically over the existing brick finish to the central core, and installed on an angle at the gables, with a feature chevron providing interest and a subtle way-finding device to draw people around to the new entrance.

“A new roof finish is proposed and PV panels will be accommodated.”

The move to refurbish the office block appears to mean long term desires for a second Eagles Meadow style development on the wider site are dead. Several years ago questions were raised over the future of the area, with the old police station set to move, the court under threat, Waterworld possibly being knocked down, the Memorial Hall appearing in an FOI response as being ‘replaced’, and Crown Buildings earmarked for demolition.

The retaining and refurbishment puts another hole in a development site identified in the Town Centre Masterplan, a key ‘evidence base’ for the Local Development Plan. The wider Bodhyfryd site had been identified as a possible location for 300 apartments, possibly a hotel, a multi storey carpark and ‘hot food’ retailers. The overall site was described as being “particularly relevant in supporting the Arts/Cultural Hub at the Peoples Market” – or as it is now known ‘Ty Pawb’, with the Crown Buildings section specifically highlighted as “the best location to deliver these benefits and in helping to create a mutually supportive critical mass of operators in close proximity to each other”.

Back in 2017 the council looked at selling or knocking down Crown Buildings, a move that at the time were stated as possibly saving the authority £230k a year, however the site gained a reprieve, and earlier this year it was announced the major capital work would proceed. The location is also the site of another reprieved building, when back in 2014 Waterworld was set to be knocked down due to a consultants recommendation, however in 2015 it gained a reprieve after the formally ‘end of life’ building managed to get another 20 years added to it by a different consultant, the proposed £12m replacement was planned to have been built on Crown Buildings, although it was unclear if the £12m price tag was ever affordable.

The application will be considered for approval by Wrexham Council at a later date.

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