Shares have gone on sale to the public in a bid to raise up to £520,000 and bring Plymouth’s former Millennium nightclub and cinema building back into use as a music venue and business hub.
Nudge Community Builders, the social enterprise which bought the vast Union Street building in 2020, has launched a community share offer with a minimum target of £285,000.
The maximum that can be raised, with shares starting at £50 each, is £520,000 but ideally Nudge would be happy with £500,000. However, the appeal, on the Crowdfunder website, must hit £285,000 by December 6, 2021, to continue.
Up to £70,000 can be pledged by each individual investor and the shares promise a return of 3.6%. A minimum investment of £50 per person is required and within hours of the offer going live it had £4,750 from just six investors. The Crowdfunder page can be found here.
Nudge is working with partners at London-based workspace developer Eat Work Art, which has already renovated run-down buildings in London and Plymouth, to bring the enormous pile back into use.
Nudge bosses have said the first businesses could be operating from the building by mid-2022 as work continues on creating a music venue in the main auditorium. The overall project could cost up to £4m.
Nudge said that by raising £500,000 of community share investment it would enable the repayment of money borrowed to buy the building and also go towards having the ground floor of the gigantic pile in use by 2022.
It is planning a phased development:
Phase 1: The main ground floor space will be repaired and servicing provided to allow for independent businesses with a focus on suitable commercial uses that complement the wider ambitions for the building and create local jobs.
Phase 2: The front portion of the ground floor will be given over to public-facing uses, such as independent makers or a public art gallery and servicing the wider building with toilets, etc.
Nudge said the first floor ancillary space is ideally suited to daytime use as a café, serving the public and tenants renting work-spaces below; whilst in the evening this would become a bar that serves the main auditorium.
The existing auditorium will be repaired and sympathetically renovated, being careful to retain the layers of history reflected in the building fabric. This is capable of providing a 1,500 capacity music venue “something which Plymouth sorely lacks”.
Phase 3: The top floor is linked to the café space via the south eastern staircase and so could form part of the same use, alternatively it could offer an opportunity for a landmark venue.
Nudge said it needs the investment because it was supported in its purchase of the building by the charitable Rank Foundation, which has a long association with the building from its cinema days, and Power to Change, the organisation supporting hundreds of community businesses across the country.
“This put us in a position to be able to secure the building quickly after many years of negotiating and failed attempts to secure it,” Nudge said. “We are now running a community share offer to pay back the short-term financial support we took on from the Rank Foundation to buy the building and to give us a working budget to make quick progress.”
This is the same approach Nudge took to buying the former Union Street pub The Clipper and Nudge said such share offers are important because it creates “the collective ownership” and “the buy-in that makes a Nudge building feel different to other places and businesses”.
It said: “This is a major project and a collective approach is key to making it a success. We know that many of you were really frustrated that this building was standing empty, we know there is a city need for the uses we propose.
“We want you to be more than part of the audience and feel part of bringing the building back to life, it is going to cost a lot of money and we’d prefer to pay a return to investors that care about how we approach things and what we do.”
Nudge said people should “please only invest what you can afford” and added: “We want this to be a good investment – not only do you become part of the journey, you can also get up to 3.6% on your investment.”
Business Live’s South West Business Reporter is William Telford. William has more than a decade’s experience reporting on the business scene in Plymouth and the South West. He is based in Plymouth but covers the entire region.
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It described community shares as “a great way to support things to happen in your community” and said: “You invest your money in a social enterprise that puts your money to good use, and you get a return on your investment as well as a social return to the local community. Community shares is a user-friendly name for withdrawable, non-transferable share capital, which is unique to co-operative and community benefit societies.”
A recent report published by Co-ops UK found that since 2012, £155m has been raised by 104,203 people to support more than 440 businesses, and 92% of businesses that have raised finance with community shares are still trading.
Nudge is a Community Benefit Society created in 2017 and run by residents living in Stonehouse, with a mission to upgrade the once notorious Union Street into “a street the whole world loves”. It said it has already made a “real visible difference to the street, running The Clipper, for which it raised £206,000 from more than 150 investors, The Plot, Union Corner and pop-up street activity.
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