Council to consider plans for start-up digital incubator space

CGI of Crown Buildings scheme

Sefton Council’s Cabinet will be provided with an update on Southport’s Enterprise Arcade scheme, in a report on the Town Deal project at the cabinet’s meeting next Thursday (May 25).

The project aims to provide digital incubator space for start-ups and entrepreneurs.

As well as being asked to note the scheme’s continued progress, the report’s recommendations include the agreement of £224,000 for work on the town’s Crown Buildings so that they can accommodate the new Enterprise Arcade.

This will include work on the building’s structure as well as the location of IT provision and connections.

Another recommendation is that the council manages the operation of the Enterprise Arcade, rather than outsourcing to an external operating partner.

Procurement for the construction works will be led by the council’s executive director of place, Stephen Watson, in consultation with Cllr Paulette Lappin, the council’s cabinet member for regulatory, compliance and corporate services.

Located on Southport’s Eastbank Street, the Enterprise Arcade will be Southport’s first digital incubator space for start-up businesses and entrepreneurs.

Town Deal funding of £1.5m has been earmarked for the scheme that will see Crown Buildings reimagined, creating almost 900 sq m of space for digital and creative start-ups and scale-ups.

Cllr Marion Atkinson, cabinet member for regeneration and skills, and member of the Southport Town Deal board, said: “By providing refurbished office workspaces for start-up, growing SMEs and co-working space for creative and digital tech businesses, the Enterprise Arcade will be a catalyst for creating a new digital eco-system in Southport town centre.

“Locating the new Enterprise Arcade in the Crown Buildings will enable us to breathe new life into currently unused town centre buildings and by managing the project in-house, we can ensure it delivers best value for Southport, its economy and its young entrepreneurs, in line with the Town Deal Funding objectives.”

The report says the council will aim to ensure that the company contracted to construct the scheme and the Enterprise Arcade’s eventual partners and tenants are signed up to its Sefton Caring Business Charter. Charter signatories are committed to support employment, apprenticeship, training, mentoring, work experience and other opportunities for care experienced young people in Sefton.

Scheme architects, K2 are already signed up and are delivering support to care experienced young people. Local schools and colleges will also be key project partners, and further opportunities will be developed in partnership with them to support young people with access to employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in the creative and digital tech sector.

Cllr Atkinson added: “In addition to encouraging local start-ups and enabling existing Southport companies to expand, the Enterprise Arcade will support employment opportunities in the town.

“The Town Deal projects will support the post COVID-19 recovery of Southport’s economy by creating new, local employment opportunities and could generate further confidence in Southport that could lead to future private sector investment.”

Subject to approval, and to contractor procurement, refurbishment works will commence late this year.