THE ground floor of the Cambridge City Council-owned Guildhall is to be rented out to small businesses in an initiative that will boost support for start-up enterprises and the city centre economy.
The council has agreed terms for Allia, a local charitable organisation that works with charities, entrepreneurs and businesses, to let the ground floor of the Guildhall.
The agreement will see Allia create a Future Business Centre of around 680 square metres of flexible workspace, meeting rooms and collaboration areas and, potentially, a community coffee shop and community space.
The new centre is set to be open during normal office hours and weekends. Allia staff will operate a reception area and manage their tenants, visitors and meeting rooms.
The intention is for Allia to start occupying the area from the autumn for an initial two-year period and potential to extend.
The new plan for the Guildhall has been made possible as many council staff have continued to work remotely since the pandemic.
Office space at the council’s Mandela House offices on Regent Street meets the needs of its staff meaning that the ground floor area of the Guildhall is currently underused.
The council is reviewing its longer term needs for city centre office space as part of its Our Cambridge transformation programme, which is modernising how services are delivered.
Cllr Mike Davey, Executive Councillor for Finance, Resources and Transformation, said: “I am really pleased that we’ve been able to work with Allia on this initiative which I am sure will be welcomed by small companies, start-ups and others.
“We’re focused on supporting business in Cambridge and helping the city centre economy continue to recover from the pandemic. The new centre will be an important part of our approach.
“Allia already runs the impressive Future Business Centre on King’s Hedges Road so by working together we are able to bring something similar to the city centre.
“The Guildhall offers an excellent city centre base, and, with Allia’s support, I hope it will prove to be an appealing location for a number of organisations looking to use a flexible, collaborative workspace.”
Cllr Davey added: “Our council staff have shown great flexibility and commitment since the start of the pandemic, continuing to provide services to residents and adapting to new ways of working.
“With flexible working for staff now embedded in the way we operate, we’re taking a longer term look at what office accommodation we need in future.
“While we do that work it makes sense to put our underused office space to the best possible use. As well as helping businesses, the new centre will raise rental income that we can put back into providing services.
“I look forward to the new centre take shape at the Guildhall and seeing businesses and enterprises go from strength to strength.”
Initial work to prepare for Allia’s arrival will get under way shortly.
Letting out the ground floor will not affect any of the civic areas of the Guildhall such as the council chamber.
David Broach, Director of Allia Future Business Centres, said: “Allia is extremely proud to be working with Cambridge City Council to establish a new workspace in such an iconic building in the heart of Cambridge. As the town centre continues to recover following the pandemic, the new Future Business Centre will breathe new life into the building, creating an impact business hub, alongside a new community café, retail and exhibition space, which will be used to support local community groups and organisations. The centre will also deliver business support to eligible businesses, with the aim of creating jobs, enabling sustainable growth and supporting the net-zero agenda.”
Joanna Gabryel, Regional Centre Manager of Allia Future Business Centres, added: “We’re delighted to take on the running of another Future Business Centre in Cambridge, to support the local business community. Our centres are a friendly, dynamic business community and this one promises to be the same - we look forward to welcoming our new tenants and co-workers in the autumn.”