THE FINAL phase of the ambitious transformation of the former Ashton Old Baths site is now complete and will help to create more jobs in the area.
Further workspaces, meeting rooms and other facilities have been added to the historic Grade II* listed building, which was first redeveloped by Tameside Council into a digital, creative and media hub in 2016.
The second phase of the redevelopment, which started last year, has brought more workspace, co-working spaces, communal areas, meeting rooms, shared kitchens and a state-of-the-art data centre. Alongside hosting council, NHS and other public sector partner's systems, this new resilient facility is the first commercial data centre to be located in Tameside and provides secure hosting facilities for business across Tameside and the wider area.
The facility benefits from the high-speed fibre coverage that's already in place across much of Tameside. For businesses this makes connecting to it quick, simple and affordable. In addition to hosting facilities there are also a number of commercial high speed fibre internet service providers already based in the centre who can provide onward Internet services.
Features of special interest such as the former lobby entrance, roof lights and tiled floors have also now been restored to maintain the character and architectural highlights of the much loved local landmark.
Oxford Innovation, which manages workspaces throughout the UK, was appointed to work alongside Tameside Council to finalise the final phase so the hub can open its doors to businesses this summer. MCAU architect led the project consultant team throughout, designing and delivering the new structure as well as completing all restoration work.
Cllr Oliver Ryan, Tameside Council Executive Member for Finance and Economic Growth, said: "This second phase of work completes what has been an incredible transformation of Ashton Old Baths, fulfilling our ambition of repairing and restoring the original structure and features to return the site to its former glory while also securing its long term future. This is now a state-of-the-art office space, with many appealing and unique features, which should attract cutting edge and forward looking businesses to the borough. This in turn will bring jobs to the area and contribute to the local economy."
Gareth Scargill for Oxford Innovation said: "Oxford Innovation has been involved with the Ashton Old Baths project for many years and very much welcomes the additional functionality of the innovation space which the Annex brings to the existing centre.
"We worked with the council to finalise the fit-out phase, minimising any physical impact on the existing building's structure to reflect this building's history and future. Now, we have a truly groundbreaking commercial space which is an attractive proposition for companies across the digital, creative and media sectors.
"The proposals will continue to build on the success of the completed phase one works, acting as a catalyst for town centre investment. We're currently in negotiations with interested parties who wish to base themselves from Ashton Old Baths."
Work on the first part of Ashton Old Baths, undertaken by Manchester-based property developer PlaceFirst in partnership with Tameside Council, represented a £3m investment. This followed grants from the European Regional Development Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund after the building sat empty for over 40 years following its closure in the 1970s.
As part of the first phase of development, the building included a self contained 7,000 sq ft suite of flexible office accommodation, which is located in the former pool hall and can accommodate up to 100 people, as well as 4,000 sq ft of meeting rooms, SME incubator services, breakout spaces and a rooftop terrace.
The new office workspaces respects the historical room layouts from the building's former use for communal bathing, including having meeting rooms in the former private women's swimming pools, Turkish baths and changing/dressing rooms.
Elements of particularly special interest were retained and they include the existing lobby entrance, the tiled women's baths room, the roof lights and refurbishment of the cast iron roof structure to the first floor. In the upstairs kitchen, there is a glass door with views into the original boiler which warmed the building.
The offices have controlled environments with lighting and comfort heating and cooling. A key design aim was to increase the natural daylight into some of the existing darker spaces so that the whole environment connects to the outside. This means that there is an open feel to the way all the rooms are planned out, making it a pleasant place in which to work.