THE future of the landmark Northern Echo building in Darlington town centre has been secured with ambitious plans to turn it into an Adult Skills Centre.
The building on Priestgate has been bought by the council and development will now begin, using funding from the Towns Fund and Tees Valley Combined Authority.
The Northern Echo newspaper will remain in the building as an anchor tenant.
The ground floor will be refurbished and converted into an Adult Skills Centre, offering people the opportunity to pick up new skills and qualifications, whether to start their career path, retrain in a new industry or pick up employment training.
The building will also feature a communal entrance, reception and resources base, a large teaching office and meeting spaces. It is planned the upper floors will be fully refurbished to provide much needed high quality office space in the town centre.
Councillor Heather Scott, leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “The Echo building is one of our town’s most iconic buildings – up there with the clock tower and Victorian covered market in terms of being instantly recognisable to Darlington people.
“We want to breathe new life into it, while being respectful of its heritage. The new facility will be superb and will make a huge difference to hundreds of people across Darlington looking to learn new skills.
“We want to support local employers with the talent they need to grow, creating better skilled workforces and more jobs. This investment ticks those boxes.”
The Towns Fund Board chair Angela Howey said: “The new facility will help deliver lifelong learning in an education, skills and enterprise space. We are looking to co-design programmes with Darlington College, the council, TVCA, Teesside University and local businesses to increase productivity and create sustainable jobs.
“The regeneration of the famous building aims to provide a holistic location for those seeking to bolster their existing employability skills or transition into high-demand employment opportunities such as finance, engineering, or logistics.
“The building will be fully refurbished across each of its floors to transform it into a 21st century learning zone and business hub whilst committing to retaining the charm of the original exterior.
“The centre will give people the skills they need. We are working closely with Darlington College to maximise the offerings that can be delivered as part of this scheme and enhance the educational provision delivered in the town centre.”
Northern Echo managing director David Coates said: “I am delighted the building will be in such safe hands and will continue to play a vital role for the community, with the Echo itself remaining at the heart of the town.”
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