Douglas market hall may be set to enjoy a new role as a centre of creativity after Douglas Borough Council agreed to enter into further discussions about a potential partnership with the Isle of Man College for its art and design degree course students to occupy the building on week days during term times.
The agreement comes after the Council, as part of a wider review of its assets, had invited expressions of interest for use of the market hall.
Seven submissions were received, with the college’s proposals deemed the most appropriate by Members.
Should final agreement be reached the café and butcher’s shop will not be affected as the building will remain open to the public throughout the week and will continue to operate as a market hall on many weekends during the year. Additionally, it is hoped the building may become home to artists’ incubator units, pop-up stalls and gallery displays throughout the year.
A determining factor in the Council’s decision was that the building would remain available for hosting markets, craft fairs and similar community events outside of term times, at weekends and at other peak times, such as TT fortnight.
Chair of the Housing and Property Advisory Committee Councillor David Ashford explained: ‘We welcome the college’s proposal which we believe could provide Douglas market hall with a new lease of life that would see it regain its rightful position at the heart of the community, as it was when it opened in 1900.
‘The market hall will always be very much a part of the island’s built heritage but changing consumer habits and trading practices have brought about an inevitable decline in the building’s original function as a place of commerce. Mindful of this the Council was keen that the building assume a new, more resilient role and it was against this background that we were pleased to accept, in principle, the College’s submission.’
Douglas Development Partnership’s Chris Pycroft said: ‘In its new guise the market hall would have the power to serve as a hub of creativity on the North Quay, a revitalised area regularly hosting innovative community events and activities, to which the students would undoubtedly bring some new and exciting dimensions.
‘Importantly we would envisage footfall increasing around Market Hill and the North Quay, while students would have the opportunity to engage directly with the immediate business community and general public, all of which would add to the vibrant urban mix of the area.’
The College's acting principal Ian Sheard said: 'The College is working more and more in partnership with organisations across the Island. The prospect of being able to work with Douglas Borough Council on this innovative project to make good use of one of the town’s landmark buildings is particularly exciting.'
The College’s art, design and programme manager Helen Fox added: ‘We are extremely pleased to be working in partnership with Douglas Borough Council to develop a higher education centre in Douglas’s Market Hall. This will combine degree study with opportunities for graduates to have studio, exhibition, events and retail space. This hub of artistic activity will provide such a boost to the creative community on the Island and a fantastic place to interact with businesses.’
Douglas Borough Council and the Isle of Man College are now exploring the proposal in greater detail with a view for the new arrangements, if agreed, to be in place ahead of the 2014-2015 academic year.