Over the last month a lot has been happening around the transformation of the old Beales building into Mansfield Connect.
We’ve had the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove pay us a visit, to look around this huge site and to discuss our Levelling Up Partnership with Government – in total funds worth around £40 million of investment into Mansfield.
I also had the opportunity to visit with County and District Council partners, to look around the building, to emphasise the potential this place has to bring lasting regeneration into our town centre.
Once up and running, the site will deliver a variety of public and private services, increasing footfall to Stockwell Gate by an extra 1,000 people a day and bringing much needed additional investment to that part of town.
There is a lot of cost in getting it up to scratch, and therefore some financial risk in that. That's precisely why, without an intervention like the Levelling Up Fund, no commercial body or business will do anything with it.
It needs this kind of intervention, or it will sit empty for decades, and so I’m proud to have lobbied Government for the investment needed for us to take on this huge project.
With its prominent place in the town centre and the impact such a huge, derelict site has on our town, getting this building revived and functional again is key to making Mansfield a greater place to live and to visit.
Those who frequently read my column will know I've been at absolute pains to counteract the idea that this building is going to be JUST a Council office. In truth, you could move the whole of MDC in here and it would probably only fill ten percent of the space.
We've not got to the bottom of what will be in it yet, it’s probably a three-to-four-year project initially with further phases coming later.
However, I've had people comment to say it should be retail, business space, restaurants, leisure, housing. I've heard all sorts. The answer to all of those from my point of view is, yes, it should.
It's a MASSIVE building, so it may well end up being all those things! The Council are just the ones managing it in these initial phases and working to get things off the ground.
I keep saying it because there is real potential that this building has for our town, which cannot be overstated. A mix of public and private sector partners offering all sorts of leisure, retail, housing and services, are a better option than a massive derelict shell in the middle of the town.
The job of Councils in the coming months, Nottinghamshire included, is to get to grips with the numbers, with managing the risk and assessing the opportunities.
So is it perfect? No... Will it fix everything all in one go? No. Nothing will. But bringing Beales back to life is one of many positive steps forward, and it WILL make a difference. The opportunities to take these steps are far more than they were, thanks to securing the Levelling Up Fund money earlier this year.