Theatre company building seeks new occupier – at peppercorn rent

The Abbey Field Centre, which needs a new future Picture: COLCHESTER BOROUGH COUNCIL

The Abbey Field Centre, which needs a new future Picture: COLCHESTER BOROUGH COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

A council is seeking a new occupier for a “landmark” community building which was once a garrison gym.

Colchester Borough Council wants to hear from community-based organisations, businesses or groups interested in taking over management of the Abbey Field Centre and breathe new life into it.

The property – formerly the Garrison Gym – is located at Circular Road South in the heart of the town’s Garrison and Shrub End communities and is available from January 2021 on a peppercorn lease of up to 25 years. It is currently occupied by The Mercury Theatre.

MORE – Jimmy’s Farm set to lift TV viewers’ spirits with joys of autumnSteve Mannix, executive director at the Mercury Theatre, said: “The Abbey Field Centre is an exceptional creative space – large, light, flexible and stylish. We’ve developed some exciting theatre there, using the space to rehearse, work and entertain. It’s a hugely versatile and attractive building and will become a real asset to any ambitious, creative organisation.”

The former gymnasium building – which dates from 1860 – was previously owned by the Ministry of Defence and was transferred to Colchester Borough Council in 2010 as a benefit to town residents.

In 2013, it underwent major restoration and is now suitable for a range of purposes including community activities, childcare provision, skills training and education classes, cultural and leisure activities, and medical and health facilities, said the council.

A special viewing day will be held on Thursday, October 29, between 9am and 1pm to give interested organisations an opportunity to tour the site and ask questions of Colchester Borough Council’s Estates Team, managed by Colchester Amphora Trading Ltd.

Councillor Michael Lilley, Colchester Borough Council portfolio holder for communities, wellbeing and public safety, said: “We’re inviting community-focused enterprises to come and look at this beautifully-refurbished and versatile facility, to see how it might give them the space to grow and prosper.

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“This is an exciting opportunity and we’re looking for proposals to sustain the future of this wonderful building and secure its place as a valued community asset. I look forward to seeing the ideas that come forward.”

The fully-accessible building can cater for up to 220 people and includes a kitchen, 649sq m of utility space and a semi-sprung floor in the main hall

a fully functional kitchen with a serving hatch into the main hall.

The council said it would grant a lease at a peppercorn rent, with the future tenant required to carry out all necessary repairs and maintenance throughout the term of the lease.