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Gloucestershire Business News

Over budget but here at last: £9.2m Minster Exchange nears completion

Cheltenham's £9.2m Minster Exchange (MX) development is set to open its doors in May.

The innovative 20,000sq ft town centre co-working and events space has been plagued by delays and budget problems.

The development was initially budgeted to cost £5.2 million. This was made up of a grant of £3.1 million secured by GFirst LEP from the Government's Build Back Better Fund and £2.1 million from Cheltenham Borough Council.

In December 2022, the council pledged a further £2.5 million to the project. In June 2023, it voted to extend the funding up to £9.27 million. This figure includes a contingency to cover the potential of further risks in the project relating to inflation, supplier issues and labour availability. As at March 2024, the projected cost to complete the MX project is £9.27 million, including this contingency.

The MX was initially due to complete in summer 2022. This was pushed back to spring 2023. It is now set to open in May 2024.

The centre will be home to the town's Growth Hub and it's hoped it will also be a base for around 50 start-ups and SMEs, mainly in the cyber, tech and creative industries.

The scheme is being designed and delivered by Workshop Cheltenham Ltd (WSC Ltd). Innovation company, Plexal, started a partnership with WSC in 2019 and now owns a 51% share of the business.

Bruce Gregory, managing director of Hub8 by Plexal, showed Punchline-Gloucester.com editor, Mark Owen, around the MX.

Bruce said: "This building will really be a way in which we can help celebrate our technology community and bring it together with the wonderful history we have in the town with creativity, with culture and with putting on incredible events."

The MX is already 60% let. Two companies which have recently agreed to take space in the MX are finance firm, Infinite CFO, which will be moving 14 of its 30 staff to the building, and Haremi, an educational company which will be moving all 50 of its staff into the building.

In line with the MX Innovation Centre's commitment to secure the town's future for businesses and residents, Hub8 by Plexal has opened applications for a new Grown in Cheltenham programme. It's an opportunity for Cheltenham-based founders to fast-track their companies with six months of free, tailored business support.

Interested parties must meet the following criteria:

• An early-stage start-up in Cheltenham

• The business must be registered in Cheltenham and/ or its impact is significantly felt within the borough

• Not a current member of the Hub8 by Plexal start-up community

Grown in Cheltenham companies will be in the expert hands of Plexal's innovation team, which works with some of the biggest government departments, enterprises and most exciting start-ups in the UK, helping them to achieve their innovation and growth goals. Interested businesses can contact hello@hub8and.co.

The MX is a key part of the regeneration of the town, forming a link from Pittville Pump Rooms through the planned mixed-use development at North Place to The Brewery Quarter, the proposed development at Poundland on the High Street, to the MX and The Promenade.

Cllr Rowena Hay, leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, said: "I can't tell you how excited I am, but with excitement comes nervousness because this has been such a journey of absolute determination to see this part of our town transformed.

"It's been a long journey to get to here. I can't wait until it's all nice and green and we've got no builders around."

Punchline-Gloucester.com said: "We have followed the journey of the Minster Exchange every step of the way. Although it's had its problems, at long last it's moved significantly forward, and we believe it will bring huge benefit to the town and the business community."

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