Fort Regent’s iconic dome roof will disappear from the skyline as part of major refurbishments to make the venue “a first-class modern cultural and leisure destination” within 10 years.
Ministers set out their ‘Future Fort Regent’ vision yesterday - including ideas for a hotel, cinema, conference centre, bowling alley and casino - and are now inviting islanders to share their feedback.
However, at this stage, most of the Government's announcement remains only a 'vision', with exact design, construction and funding details yet to be worked out.
Officials say private funding is likely to be needed.
'Future Fort Regent' takes a phased approach - the first part of which, dubbed the 'Early Phase', is already said to be underway, with sports clubs and other organisations slowly moving out of the Fort.
Once all current occupants have left the venue, the asbestos and redundant structures will be stripped out.
Pictured: The proposals were presented yesterday by Andy Scate, the Director General for Infrastructure, Housing and Environment (IHE), the Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré and Project Director, Dave Curtis.
Work will also start on improving access to the venue, with the creation of a new pedestrian access - possibly in the form of vertical lifts - from Snow Hill and improvements on the access from Pier Road car park.
Ministers then want to create a new flexible space offering a large venue area to be used for concerts, events, shows, exhibitions or markets inside.
“There are a lot of creative people in the island who could use those spaces in a much better way than we ever could and there will be the opportunity to do that at low costs,” Dave Curtis, the Project Director, said.
The ‘Early Phase’ will also include work on the outdoor area, with the return of a garden area and heritage walkways, as well as the creation of a children’s activity play in the moats and ramparts.
Meanwhile, the ‘Longer Term’ phase will focus on creating the winter gardens in the north of the site, a flexible venue capable of hosting from 500 to 2,500 people as well an an indoor ‘leisure box’ with modern play area and food and drink venues.
During the presentation, Mr Curtis floated idea of a hotel and leisure 'hub', including a four-screen independent cinema, a six-lane bowling alley and a small to medium size casino.
The first phase is expected to conclude within three years with the second one expected to take up to 10 years to achieve.
But, while money has already been set aside in the Government Plan for the ‘Early Phase’, the second one will require further investment.
Andy Scate, the newly appointed Director General for Infrastructure, Housing and Environment (IHE), has suggested Government and public money would not be funding all of it.
“You cannot do this all in one go, you have to be sensible and realistic about the investment required to take this project forward,” he said. “We do need to look at how other investors can get involved.”
Pictured: The proposed Heritage Trail route would aim to reinterpret the early history of the Fort.
As Mr Curtis mentioned, all of the uses mentioned as part of the ‘Longer Term’ plans will required “commercial operators” to be run but none has been identified so far, although Deputy Hugh Raymond, who chairs the Fort's Political Steering Group, said there had been some interest in the venue.
While the exact future of the venue is still unclear, one thing is sure: the Fort’s roof does not feature in the plans, despite featuring in the project’s logo.
Mr Curtis explained that the current roof is now “functionally behind its useful life”. While it is not falling down, he added, it needs replacing and is difficult to adapt. Therefore, it has been decided it would be replaced, enabling the creation of a new space with vertical access.
As Mr Scate described the roof is “of age” and whilst it “still does the work”, a “variety of leaks” have been identified across the structure.
Given its current state, it was therefore decided it would be best to focus on other uses rather than to invest in it.
Pictured: A view of the 'moat' play area for older children.
He however assured there were no plans to affect the historic structure of the building, noting it is recognised as an important part of the island’s heritage.
During the presentation, the Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, stressed that this new approach would be more successful than previous attempts to rejuvenate the Fort.
“This is not just about producing plans on paper, with no commitment or resources to see them through,” he said.
He added that the plans set out were “within reach” and “feasible” with the right commercial approach, which he said would be for future Council of Ministers to look at.
“We cannot let the Fort continue to decline,” he said. “We must make investments into its future so that it can continue to be enjoyed… You need to access it and use it in a modern way because if you don’t it will wither and die.”
Islanders are being invited to share their views on the proposals via an online survey on the Government website. To complete the survey, click HERE.
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