Plans to turn one of London’s finest Victorian market buildings into a museum for the capital have moved closer after the Museum of London said it had raised £180m toward its £250m target for the redevelopment.
In the first big funding milestone for the project, the City of London Corporation — the Square Mile’s local authority — will contribute £110m and the Mayor of London £70m — City Hall’s largest investment to date in a cultural initiative.
The scheme will see the museum move to a new location among the current disused market buildings at West Smithfield, leaving its old site next to the Barbican complex free to be redeveloped under a separate plan for a world-class concert hall.
The Victorian structures, including the General Market and Fish Market, will be revamped under a scheme by architects Stanton Williams and Asif Khan, with a glass-topped dome bringing light into the building, an innovative spiral escalator and a series of underground chambers to display some of the institution’s 6m objects over nearly 9,500 sq m of gallery space.
The museum will submit its planning application to the City of London Corporation in 2018, with a view to opening its doors in 2022.
City Hall’s £70m contribution will not come from its existing budget: the City of London Corporation will lend it the money, which it will pay back to the local authority over 25 years. The Museum of London aims to raise the rest of the funding through a public campaign and by tapping corporate sponsors and private philanthropists.
Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, said the contribution was part of his pledge to make culture a “core priority” of his mayoralty. “This major landmark project will be a jewel in our crown . . . It will rejuvenate West Smithfield, protecting its heritage while also creating a dynamic new public space — strengthening London’s credentials as an international powerhouse for culture.”
Much of the money will be spent on securing the 1880s buildings, which are in a state of disrepair, having been allowed to deteriorate since their closure. A previous plan to develop the buildings as offices and retail was blocked by the government in 2015 after meeting opposition from heritage campaigners angered by the proposed destruction of the roof and other parts of the buildings.
The site languished throughout the 1990s and 2000s but is at the heart of an area that has seen rapid redevelopment. The disused General Market sits close to the Central Market, which continues as a wholesale meat business, as well as the renewed transport hub of Farringdon, part of the Thameslink rail network, London Underground and the east-west Crossrail line, which is expected to open fully in 2019.
The museum is central to the Corporation’s plans for a so-called “cultural hub” in the area, in partnership with the Barbican Centre, the Guildhall School of Music, London Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of London. Its current building, at a busy transport junction on London Wall, can only be accessed via a series of pedestrian walkways above the road and does not allow room for expansion of the collection.
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