Construction of the new £6.8 million Minster Exchange (MX) business, arts and education centre in Cheltenham has gone from ground works to three-storeys’ tall over the Christmas period.
Space behind the Children’s Library adjacent to St Mary’s Church in the town centre was cleared before the festive period and the shell of the modular building being craned into place before the New Year.
Once clad and fitted it will become a new headquarters for Cheltenham Festivals and a key business centre for the town as part of the GFirst Local Enterprise Partnership-backed county-wide Growth Hub network, as well as home to 20,000 square feet of workspace.
The MX is a joint venture between Cheltenham Borough Council and Workshop Cheltenham – a group of Gloucestershire-based entrepreneurs – and is billed as a potential driver of the post-pandemic rejuvenation of the town.
Bruce Gregory, director of Workshop Cheltenham and also managing director of cyber-focused business workspace Hub8, said: ‘We’ve made rapid progress. All 46 bespoke modular units arrived on-site during December 2021; within the modular units there will be a Growth Hub, café and work and innovation space for companies in the cyber, tech, digital and creative sectors, plus a fabulous new home for Cheltenham Festivals.
‘Next to arrive on site in early February 2022 will be a timber frame structure that will be home to the 300-person capacity event space.
‘The MX will be transformational for the town, helping to reinstate the Minster Gardens, the library, and The Wilson as a vibrant location for the community to visit and enjoy.
He added: ‘It will be a platform for high growth companies in the cyber tech, digital and creative sectors, a link with Hub8’s two other sites located in The Brewery Quarter and Gloucestershire College’s Cheltenham Campus and a shop window for the future vision of the town as we build momentum towards the launch of the Cyber Innovation Campus as part of the Golden Valley Development.’
Dev Chakraborty, deputy chief executive at the LEP, said: ‘GFirst LEP supported the Minster Exchange project, including Cheltenham’s very own Growth Hub, with a £3.114 million investment through the government’s Getting Building Fund.
‘It’s great to see the progress now being made and once complete will see a physical Growth Hub in each of the six districts across Gloucestershire.’
Cllr Rowena Hay, leader of the borough council, said: ‘It’s incredibly exciting to see the long-awaited arrival of the bespoke modular units.
‘As we work hard, together with our partners, to recover as a town from the pandemic, the delivery of the MX project is crucial, now and for future generations.’
It is expected to open as early as May 2022.
By Andrew Merrell