Everyone has their own views on how Swindon to improve, and I am fortunate to finally be a position where I can make that change happen. 18 months ago I took over as the Cabinet Member responsible for the big strategic projects in the Town Centre, and faced up to some huge challenges. Regeneration takes time, and the pace can be frustrating, but like a jigsaw, piece by piece, progress is being made.
Today, we have secured the biggest financial investment in our town centre for a generation from the Council, a new £40m headquarter office is agreed and starts construction in a matter of months, the first Grade A, best in class, office accomodation built for 21 years! We have a Hampton by Hilton hotel opening in in a Grade 2 listed building that was derelict 2 years ago. The Carriageworks have a new lease of life as a place for innovation companies and start ups to work, and the first courses for the Cultural Heritage Institute the Royal Agricultural University start in September, activity that is supporting over 300 jobs and 300 students.
The Wyvern Theatre is over 50 years old, and is nearing the end of its life. Only the Conservatives are seriously talking about its future, and our aim to create a mixed use Cultural quarter that will be transformative for the town. How do we provide a new 1200 seat Theatre that can attract the best regional and national shows, how do we sort out the Art Gallery and Museum which holds one of the best modern art collections in the UK, how do we sort out the future homes and jobs in our town centre. This is what we are working on at the moment, and there will be a comprehensive strategy before Christmas, that can be delivered.
Heritage is important in our town because we have so little left due to the actions of our predecessors, and certain building owners. A Heritage Action Zone has been setup in partnership with Historic England, and the building that everyone thinks about when asked about Heritage is a key priority. For the first time in over 30 years, we have cracked what the future of Mechanics Institute could look like. The birthplace for the NHS and public lending libraries has the right people at the table, and an enthusiasm to see restoration within 5 years. While the Corn Exchange in Old Town has had a troubled past, but a clean break this year has seen a new specialist architect firm being hired by the owner. We will continue to work with residents to keep up the pressure, and see regeneration of this landmark delivered.