Apologies everyone for not posting news for so long, there’s been lots going on behind the scenes for the last few months…. we’ve been working on plans for our redevelopment, also been in negotiations with Lancaster City Council and we now have some concrete news.
Music Co-op reopening
People have been asking when the Music Co-op will reopen for rehearsals and recording. Our best estimate at the moment is that 1 Lodge St will reopen at the end of summer or autumn 2022. We know this is a long way off and some of you may be disappointed, finding it difficult to rehearse with your bands, especially if you have gigs booked. We’re looking into the possibility of temporary rehearsal space.
Lease and Council repairs to the building
We’ve continued negotiations with Lancaster City Council about a long term lease and repairs to the roof and external structure. It’s been a rocky journey at times, the main sticking point being the rent figure. Initially the Council commissioned a rent evaluation and presented us with a figure of around £50,000 a year. This is out of the question as it’s considerably higher than our turnover from the last few years. The mechanism to achieve a rent we can afford will be via a Service Level Agreement where our value to the community is assessed and paid back to us by the Council to offset some of the rent. Other similar organisations in the area (e.g. The Dukes, Ludus Dance) operate with the same mechanism.
At the moment we don’t have a figure for the value of the Service Level Agreement, it will depend on an assessment of our business plan and our “Social Value Statement”. These are areas we have been working on and continue to work on.
We commissioned our own independent rent evaluation which was estimated to be £35,000 so it’s clearly very much a matter of opinion, even amongst professionals. Unfortunately the Council rejected our surveyor’s evaluation so negotiations are still ongoing. We have now agreed to leave the commercial rent figure to be determined at a later date (especially as it’s been holding up the signing of a lease agreement which in turn has been holding up the building repairs). So on the 6th October we finally signed a lease agreement and a Deed of Surrender so our existing tenancy from 1985 has come to an end and we no longer have access to the building. While this might sound drastic it is a condition of the repair works taking place.
Under the lease agreement the Council are now obliged to carry out the repair works “with due diligence” although we are still waiting for news on the timescale for this. Our best estimate is that the works could start at the beginning of the new year and be completed by April 2022. In addition to the essential repair works to the roof, the Council have joined forces with the High Streets Heritage Action Zone scheme. Hopefully this will secure additional funding to restore the building’s exterior to its original appearance when it was built in 1883 as a coach works.
Music Co-op redevelopment
Once the Council repair works are completed we will sign a 20 year lease and move back in. We will then have a 6 month grace period before rent payments begin, so we’ll have a very busy period of redeveloping the interior of the building with new rehearsal rooms and recording studio and open the 1st floor area as a multi-use creative space which can be used for performance, rehearsal, filming, workshops, meetings, presentations etc. with a capacity of 100-150 people.
Based on our own concepts for redevelopment we’ve been working with Rocket Architects who are producing final building plans and are in discussion with contractors to get some realistic cost estimates.
We’ll start sharing plans and visualisations on social media and our website and we’d be interested in your thoughts.
At the moment it’s looking like we will need to raise around £200k-£250k in the next four or five months so that work can begin as soon as the Council work is completed. We are looking at major arts funding bodies as well as local funding from the community so this will be a major topic you’ll be hearing about over the coming months.
We plan to hold fundraising gigs and events where our users will be invited to play, so watch this space.
The management of the Music Co-op is also undergoing a makeover. The current management structure, with just 3 directors, will be expanded so there will be a board of directors formed largely from our current steering group made up of members with a wide range of experience and skills. In addition there will be a wider membership of Co-op users who will be able to have a say and make suggestions.
Although there’s loads of work to do over the coming months, some of which will be challenging, we have a really good team who are up to the task.
At last the future is looking bright.
Lancaster Music Co-op – Nov 2021