Willmott Dixon wins £6.7million extension project for Leicester’s independent arts hub

Midlands-based contractor Willmott Dixon has won a scheme of works to extend and improve Leicester’s renowned Phoenix cinema and art centre.

The project, which has been procured via SCAPE – one of the UK’s leading public sector procurement authorities and is being funded by a number of major public and private organisations – comprises a new extension to the existing facility to house creative and education spaces, two new cinema screens, a larger café bar and roof terrace with accessible toilets and lifts.

Parts of the current building – which was built in 2009 by the Willmott Dixon team – will also be refurbished to create new office and foyer spaces, and extend the existing digital arts gallery.

The £6.7 million project is being accelerated through SCAPE Construction, a direct award framework that drives collaboration, efficiency, time and cost savings.

Nick Heath, director at Willmott Dixon, said: “We’re very excited about being awarded this project and extending Phoenix even further. The venue has proven to be an invaluable asset to the local community in Leicester – acting as a collaborative hub for filmmakers, artists, and creative businesses, which has facilitated job creation and economic output for the city’s creative industries. The build has also played a huge role in the area’s digital economy, attracting national funding and supporting initiatives to boost local tourism, so we’re incredibly proud to be a part of its continuing success.

“Client satisfaction is incredibly important to the Willmott Dixon team and we always strive to deliver projects on budget, on time and to the highest possible standard. Being awarded another phase of works following completion of the initial build twelve years ago highlights how this standard has been embedded within the company for more than a decade. We can’t wait to collaborate with the Phoenix team again and to bring even more creative benefits to Leicester city centre.”

Throughout the project, Willmott Dixon will be working with Phoenix to ensure the venue remains operational and that the construction work causes minimal disruption to the occupants of the residential apartments housed within the existing building.

Nick continued: “This project will present some challenges – such as its city centre location and the close proximity of residents, as well as the site remaining live throughout the programme of works – but our experienced operations teams will be working alongside the client to find solutions that allow the project to run as seamlessly as possible.

“Having said that, the project offers some exciting sustainability opportunities too. In line with our company commitments, the extension building will target a BREEAM Very Good rating and we will be installing electric car charging points for teams to use throughout construction works. We have also already conducted a low carbon technology feasibility assessment, which will help the building incorporate the best fitting renewable energy sources. This has helped confirm plans for a green roof – making home to a biodiversity spot within the heart of the city.

“It’s been an incredibly challenging year for the creative industries, so we want to do everything we can to ensure that the extension works don’t have a negative impact on footfall for the venue. Working alongside communities and engaging with local people is something Willmott Dixon really prides itself on, so we’ll be in constant communication with Phoenix’s stakeholders to ensure the works don’t disrupt the facility’s ability to operate as usual.”

Leicester City Council is helping to fund the project in the hopes that it will restimulate the local creative sector following a difficult year in lockdown.

John Rance, chief executive officer at Phoenix, said: “We are expanding a unique cultural venue that includes digital arts, cinema, a popular café and spaces to meet, create and learn. Phoenix attracts a wide range of visitors, and Willmott Dixon and Marchini Curran Associates have done an excellent job working with us to produce a final design that meets both our ambition for the development and the challenges of funding and value for money. We are very excited to be moving forward with Willmott Dixon to complete the scheme.”

Willmott Dixon always strives to leave a lasting legacy in the communities it works within and has committed five per cent worth of social value throughout the scheme. For example, this will include various community initiatives such as supporting local young people with work experience opportunities throughout the project’s lifetime.

Mark Robinson, group chief executive at SCAPE, said: “As we attempt to collectively focus on building local economies back up, the expansion of Leicester’s Phoenix cinema and art centre is testament to the innovative thinking of Leicester City Council. This successful delivery of phase one by Willmott Dixon will attract new businesses to the area, as well as provide a fantastic and accessible facility for the local community to enjoy.

“As we, as a nation, work towards our net zero target, it is fantastic to see that the extension will be built with sustainability at the very heart of the plans creating a positive legacy for the future and the local community.”

Des Curran, director for Marchini Curran Associates, said: “We are delighted to see these exciting proposals now moving forward to the construction stage, thanks to the considerable efforts and excellent collaboration of all concerned.”