VIDEO: Cheltenham’s Minster Exchange back on track
By Sarah Wood and Mark Owen | 19th September 2023
Cheltenham's innovative co-working and events space, Minster Exchange, is on track to open early next year.
And Punchline-Gloucester.com editor, Mark Owen, was given an exclusive tour of progress behind the scenes today (September 19).
The Minster Exchange (MX) will be home to Cheltenham Festivals staff and the Growth Hub. It will also have a large Hub8 co-working space for businesses in the cyber and technology sector, a café and an events space, which will seat 150 people.
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.
Andrew Roughan, CEO of Plexal, said: "Cheltenham is really important in the global technology scene. I've travelled the world, and if you're in the field of cyber security and you mention Cheltenham, people's eyes light up - as far away as the West Coast of America and Japan.
"That's what inspired me to come and work closely with Cheltenham and understand the ecosystem a bit more and understand the power it can have. This is about a basis for social regeneration - giving people job opportunities and education opportunities, thinking about raising ambitions and about what is possible in this community.
"MX is so important because it gives scale to that community, and it gives inclusivity and accessibility. We want to invite everyone in to come and engage with our events space and our Growth Hub, at the same time as seeing the tech companies that will be based here.
"Opening in early 2024, this should be two years before the first building on the Golden Valley Development - the Innovation Centre, subject to planning approval. What we see here is the start of the bridge between the town centre and the Golden Valley."
Cllr Rowena Hay, leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, said: "This is all about connectivity and building the place that we live in, and to create footfall and generate business.
"It's not been without its challenges, but we never lost heart. It is within the revised budget and the issues are being managed, which is fantastic.
"We're on track to creating a cultural quarter here, but we couldn't do that without our partners. Workshop Cheltenham and Plexal are a really important part of place making and sustainability for Cheltenham."
Bruce Gregory, MD of Hub8, said: "This will be Hub8's third co-working space in the town. There are a range of different offices and spaces for companies to grow. If you employ 30 people, you don't need 30 desks. It's all about utilisation of space.
"Hub8 is about bringing people together and this building is about how we enable that to happen. Companies can bring a client into the members' lounge and have a meeting, but, really importantly, it will drive vibrancy within the building.
"When conversations happen, good things generally happen too. So we're really excited about what this will do in terms of growing that community of technology companies, which is really crucial for the future growth of the town."
The 20,000 sq ft development was initially due to be completed in summer 2022 and originally cost £5.2 million - 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. Following building delays and supplier issues, the council pledged a further injection of £2.5 million in December 2022. Earlier this summer, it announced a further £700,000 investment, taking the total spend to over £8.3 million.
The MX is set to open in February 2024.
Punchline-Gloucester.com said: "The MX is now on time and on budget. This is a really exciting project for the town and it is really coming together. We're looking forward to going back, when it is open and bustling with life."
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