An innovative £17 million cross-sector services hub has opened in Hemel Hempstead – just as the New Town celebrates its 70th anniversary.
The Forum continues Dacorum Borough Council’s Hemel Evolution revitalisation of the town centre, which recently took it to the finals of the Great British High Street Awards 2016.
Taking only a year and a half to build, The Forum brings public sector organisations in Hemel Hempstead under the same roof as voluntary partners and achieves energy and cost-saving efficiencies for tax-payers.
The Hertfordshire local authority has pioneered a proactive approach to co-locating and releasing public sector land, working with private developers R G Carter and Endurance Estates to replace outdated 1960s civic buildings with the purpose-built community hub and a planned new modern apartment complex.
The Forum now houses Dacorum’s own borough council services (including an upgraded customer service centre, housing, planning, environmental health and benefits) as well as Hertfordshire County Council’s new library and register services.
Councillor Andrew Williams, Leader of Dacorum Borough Council, explains: “The Forum is all about welcoming the public in and helping residents access services more easily under one roof. You walk into an open plan, energy-efficient building to be greeted by a state-of-the-art library housed in a light and airy central atrium next to a new café. It’s an inspiring place to visit and a whole new way of working – as well as creating a striking landmark at the northern end of town.”
Rob Carter, Director of R G Carter Construction, says: “The Forum has fulfilled all of our expectations and in a number of areas exceeded them. It has been a privilege to work alongside Dacorum Borough Council who have been supportive, engaged and forward thinking throughout. The journey from initial concept to finished building has seen so much interest from the local residents and this is a project that the community can be very proud of; I would like to thank both the councillors and the community for all of their support. We are excited to continue this relationship into the next stages of the development plans.”
The four-floor 75,000 sq ft energy-efficient building has achieved a BREEAM rating of ‘excellent’. Rooftop solar panels enable the building to generate its own power, while water for toilets and heating is supplied by rainwater held in an underground reservoir. Safe cycle parking encourages staff to bike to work. Dacorum Borough Council’s taxpayers will save over £300,000 annually in running costs, as well as ruling out the need for a projected multi-million refurbishment of the obsolete Civic Centre and its substantial ongoing upkeep.
Cushman & Wakefield has provided strategic, commercial and technical property advice to Dacorum Borough Council and partners since the project inception in 2012.
Cushman & Wakefield Lead Partner Laura Stamboulieh, comments: “We are absolutely thrilled to have been part of this exciting journey leading to the official opening of The Forum. This is an exemplar project demonstrating the benefits of public sector collaboration and a proactive approach to the public sector estate. We wish the partners every success as they embark upon new ways of working within a modern, fit for purpose environment.”