IT was an ambitious bid to give a neighbourhood a top class community centre.
But when Southampton's Eastpoint Centre closed earlier this year amid spiralling debts, it looked as though it would be sold off and lost to residents forever.
But today the Daily Echo can exclusively reveal the £10.5million community hub in Thornhill is to re-open after a deal was done to save the facility for the community.
Plus You Limited (PYL), the local charity which took on management of the Bursledon Road site, has announced a deal which will see it remain as a community asset.
It will now re-open in September when Itchen College will move into some of its rooms.
The college is renting nine rooms on the ground and first floors as temporary classrooms while building work goes on at the site in Middle Road, Sholing.
The college had previously bought the centre's contents - including plasma televisions and laptops - for £200,000.
Negotiations are ongoing about bringing in partners to use other parts of the building.
The rest of the centre will once again be available for hire for events such as weddings, parties, conferences, training sessions or community activities.
The centre is being rebranded, with discussions ongoing about a new name to mark a fresh start.
PYL's chief executive Debbie King said: “This is a huge challenge for PYL and at the forefront of our minds is how to sustain this fabulous building so that it can remain in community ownership. However our primary focus has to be how to get it operational again.
“As the new landlord of the building, we have decided to trade from autumn 2014, aiming to hire parts of the building out on fixed, medium, or long term basis.
PYL chief executive Debbie King
“This will enable PYL to generate a stable income to cover the building's running costs.
“We want to maintain the centre as an asset for Thornhill and we hope that by doing so, in future years, we'll be able to benefit Thornhill residents by generating a surplus income that we can allocate to further local improvements and community projects."
Mrs King said a number of part-time posts will be created at first after the reopening, which will then develop into full-time posts.
The state-of-the-art building opened in 2011 and was the venue for a host of community activities, conferences and celebrations.
But it was revealed earlier this year that the centre had run into serious financial difficulties, with crippling debts of more than £150,000.
It closed in January after the Eastpoint Centre charity went into administration, with the loss of 23 jobs.
Negotiations had continued over the next few months about finding a new tenant, with speculation that it could become a hotel and leisure complex.
City councillor for the area and Plus You Ltd board member Matt Stevens said he was “very pleased” the centre was reopening, adding: “There's a desperate need for space for the community groups in Thornhill, so this is very important.
Cllr Matt Stevens
But he added that the centre had an “open future” and could still be sold in the future if it proved financially unviable, saying: “There are no limited options here, and the charity needs to ensure it meets its costs.”
Itchen College principal Barry Hicks said, "Like PYL and Thornhill residents, we don't want to see the Eastpoint building sold off from community ownership.
“We are really looking forward to using the excellent facilities that this magnificent building has to offer. We are confident of its future success and prosperity.”
Itchen College principal Barry Hicks
- Ring the PYL office on 023 8040 5728 for bookings.