THE Dukes is investigating a radical revamp which could see it being turned around to face a new shopping street created by the proposed Centros scheme.
The developer revealed new plans for a £100m retail-led regeneration of Lancaster’s canal corrdior in March and a revised development agreement was approved at a full city council meeting last week.
Siân Johnson, chair of The Dukes’ board, this week cautiously welcomed the new scheme and said she wanted the arts venue to make the most of it.
Miss Johnson said the Dukes would be considering extending its premises and possibly even creating a new entrance to face onto the proposed the new shopping thoroughfare and cultural centre between St Leonardgate and Moor Lane.
“If the scheme goes ahead there will be much less pedestrian flow along Moor Lane,” she said.
“The footfall will be behind us so we may have to consider moving The Dukes entrance. It is currently a very scruffy area full of plants and bushes.”
Miss Johnson said that since the Dukes has grown its numbers by over 60% since 2008 the current premises were now “hardly fit for purpose” with problems including a lack of disabled access to the main building, a lack of staff workspace, high energy costs and the need to hire storage facilities elsewhere in the city.
She said it was not ideal for DT3 young people’s space to be detached from the main building further along Moor Lane.
She added that Centros had expressed a willingness to offer technical support in drawing up the plans, but that The Dukes would organise fundraising and bid for Arts Council cash to fund what is likely to be a seven figure scheme.
Lancaster City Council leader, Coun Eileen Blamire, said that under the revised agreement Centros would be required to consult before and after submitting a new planning application next year.
She added that the company was taking into account English Heritage’s concerns about listed buildings and had lowered the heights of some of the new buildings proposed.
“It won’t please everyone, but we’ve had almost seven years of trying to do something with that peice of land and this is the first stage of looking at it before it goes to planning,” she said.
Centros director, David Lewis, said the firm hoped to complete the scheme by 2017 and that he was confident it would help to “re-enforce the fortunes and overall appeal of the city.”
“It will significantly enhance the public realm and the city’s cultural attractions, while also boosting the retail offer and the economy as a whole – through new jobs and acting as a catalyst for attracting further investment,” he added.