Glasgow’s East End community witnessed a landmark moment in the area’s regeneration today (February 29) when the original and restored five ton dome of Bridgeton’s B-listed Olympia building was lifted back into place.
Work began last year on a £10m project by Clyde Gateway – the regeneration agency responsible for the East End of the city – to bring the historic Olympia Theatre back into use exactly 100 years after its initial opening in 1911.
As part of the programme, the building’s wooden cupola (measuring 10 feet in height and 15 feet in circumference) was removed in June 2011 for restoration, with the works preserving much of the original timber as well as using some new materials. Now exactly eight months later the restored dome will be lifted back into place this Wednesday by a 60ft crane operated by local contractors CCG.
George Redmond, the local councillor for the Bridgeton area and Board Member of Clyde Gateway, said: “This is a historic moment for both the East End community and for Glasgow as well as being another major landmark of the Clyde Gateway regeneration.
“The feedback from local residents since we started work on the Olympia has been overwhelming. We already knew that this is a building which means so much to them however the interest they have shown throughout the project to date has exceeded all expectations and helped to create a real buzz and add to the sense of pride in the area.
“We’re very pleased to involve the community in today’s event. Once completed, the new Olympia will provide health, wellbeing and educational benefits for the local community which will help form part of a real legacy from Glasgow hosting the 2014 Commonwealth Games.”
Due to open ahead of schedule in Autumn 2012 the Olympia will comprise: a public library and cafe; a high performance centre and HQ for the National Governing Body for Amateur Boxing; and commercial lettable office space.
Jimmy McLellan is a local resident who sits on a local community steering group that advises Clyde Gateway. He said: “It’s been amazing to see the speed at which the works have progressed. For someone who has lived in the area for so long, the fact that the original dome is being restored and using much of the original timber means a lot, it helps ensure the history of the building is preserved. Now we are all looking forward to work being completed and myself and others from the East End using the new facilities such as the library, which we believe will be the best of its kind in Glasgow.”
Built as a theatre in 1911, the building also served as a cinema for 50 years. It lay derelict for almost two decades and was severely damaged by fire in 2004. Its purchase by Clyde Gateway was the first time the building had been in public ownership and the scheme was then developed in consultation with local residents and business owners.
The £10m costs of purchase and restoration has attracted funding from a wide range of sources including Clyde Gateway, The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Historic Scotland, Glasgow City Council’s Better Glasgow Fund, Scottish Government’s Town Centre Regeneration Fund, sportscotland, the Glasgow Trades House and the Hugh Fraser Foundation.
The new and completed Olympia building will take the following shape:
Ground floor – Public library and cafe
Public Library with integrated cafe facility and multi functional space to accommodate a range of leisure and educational activities. Specific archives will be created on local history, music hall and cinematic history and specific sport history focussed on Glasgow.
First floor – Elite Boxers training centre
High performance centre for elite athletes in Boxing – one of the core sports in the Commonwealth Games and one with a rich tradition in the East End of Glasgow. Amateur Boxing Scotland have an option to relocate their HQ within the Olympia.
Second and Third floors – Office space
Commercial lettable office space, totalling 10,000 sq ft, adjacent to Bridgeton Railway Station.
The contract to re-develop the Olympia was awarded to the Glasgow-based firm of CCG (Scotland) Ltd following a competitive tender process. As part of the community benefits clauses insisted upon by Clyde Gateway in all of its main contracts, CCG will provide a minimum of eight local residents with jobs or training places during the construction process.
The Olympia opened in September 1911 was envisaged as Glasgow’s equivalent of the Palladium Theatre in London. It has served as a variety theatre, cinema, bingo hall and furniture shop before closing its doors in 1993. The building suffered major fire damage in 2004 but in the intervening period the site had received planning permission to be converted into flatted accommodation.