23rd May, 2019

Coventry council's Friargate building to welcome government housing body

Felix Nobes 13th Mar, 2019

COVENTRY Council’s Friargate One building will welcome a government-funded housing agency bringing in new jobs.

The announcement follows years of frustration in finding a tenant at the block part-owned by Coventry City Council.

Housing England will trial a shared office space with the council in the building near the station in the city centre.

It could become a future headquarters for the non-departmental public body responsible for funding new affordable housing in England.

The council in 2017 became joint owner of the struggling office development in a bid to kickstart the flagship business district scheme.

So far, only one of an intended 25 buildings has been constructed, with the council itself as joint tenants at Friargate One alongside a single non-governmental organisation that was attracted from London, the Financial Ombudsman Service.

The council’s cabinet member for jobs and regeneration Councillor Jim O’Boyle said: “The announcement that Homes England is establishing a presence in Coventry, at Friargate which is located right next to the fastest growing railway station outside London, offers a strong statement of confidence in the city’s ongoing regeneration and transformation.

“We have already welcomed the Financial Ombudsman Service who are based at Friargate and now we are working closely with Homes England, sharing our local knowledge with its team.”

The original Friargate scheme planned for ‘up to 15,000 jobs’ at the 37-acre site has been more than a decade in the pipeline, despite annual international attempts by the council to attract private sector tenants.

It had been hoped in 2013 under the council’s previous leadership that moving council staff into the first tower block would be a ‘honey pot’ for private investors, in the words of council chief executive Martin Reeves.

Chairman of Homes England – Friargate’s latest public sector tenant – Sir Edward Lister said: “Homes England is committed to a place based approach, working with local experts to accelerate the delivery of homes across England.

“The co-location that we are now trialling in Coventry is a way of cementing that collaborative approach as teams work side by side.”

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “We’re delighted to welcome Homes England to Coventry and we hope this will be the first step towards a new headquarters, with new jobs for people in Coventry and the wider West Midlands.”

The brown 11-storey tower block Friargate One became home to hundreds of council workers who moved into it in October 2017 from other city centre office blocks which were being sold to Coventry University.

Plans for Friargate Two – a second tower block – were delayed after talk of going ahead and building it speculatively, without first securing a tenant.

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