Fund raising extension to save iconic Plymouth landmark

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Tens of thousands of pounds are needed by next week to secure the future of Plymouth’s Millennium Building. The iconic structure has stood on Union Street for more than 90 years, and, for the past 15, it has remained empty. Its future uncertain.   

A possible change of fortune began just over 12 months ago when it was bought by Nudge Community Builders, in partnership with Eat Work Art.  

For those of you who don’t know, Nudge was started nearly five years ago by Stonehouse residents. And boy, has it made a difference to the area since then! 

Commuters and locals alike will have seen how the team has transformed parts of Union Street. Its goal of paying back into the community has already seen massive change to key landmarks, including The Clipper, The Plot and Union Corner.

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Within the past few weeks, the team has set up a Community Share Offer, which can be accessed via a crowdfunding page. The goal is to raise £285,000. 

It has already garnered the support of more than 300 investors, and has, at the time of writing, raised a staggering £210,000.

With an extension in situ, the team now has until midnight on Monday (20 December) to raise the remaining £75,000. 

If they succeed, the dream of renovating the building, and creating a community space for Union Street residents and businesses, will be a step closer to reality. 

‘This is all or nothing and we are peddling as fast as we can to make it,’ says Wendy Hart, Nudge Co-Director. ‘We had our crowdfunding extended by 11 days. It’s tough but it’s the right thing to do. It’s nerve wracking.’

‘Getting the funding in will help to create a ripple effect with the creation of jobs which will attract people into the area.’

Nudge estimates 25% of Union Street is effectively empty. If the Millennium Building is renovated, the vacancy rate will reduce by three per cent. It’s a significant amount for a comparatively small area of the city.

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The renovation plans for the building are divided into three specific phases. The first stage is expected to see the creation of a commercial space for local independent businesses on the ground floor.

It’s hoped further phases would see the existing auditorium repaired which would allow for the creation of a 1500 capacity music venue. 

There would also be the opportunity for a café and bar area plus the provision of additional facilities which could include a public art gallery. 

The Millennium Building has meant so much to so many people since it opened in 1931. Indeed, one of Wendy’s colleagues has a special fondness for the place as it was where her Mum and Dad met. 

Wendy explains it started as the Gaumont Palace theatre, but, over the past 90 years, it’s had various incarnations, from a double storey screened cinema with 2000 seats through to a dance hall, roller disco, and, more recently, a nightclub venue.

The current appeal isn’t just designed to raise funds to restore the site back to its former glory, but it’s also aimed to be an opportunity for people backing the project.

The team are running a community share offer which means they can pay back the cost of the building’s purchase plus have enough left over to undertake the required work on it. 

Crucially, they also expect to provide a return on the funds invested in the project. 

‘Community Shares are an alternative way for us to raise finance, instead of going to a bank, we raise money from people who want, like us, to make a difference and invest in bringing buildings back into use.’

‘The dividend we pay back on the investment is our way of saying thank you to those people who trust us with their money.’

Before we finish our remote meeting, Wendy is keen to point out that the project is all about Union Street being for the people of Union Street. 

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In other words, this isn’t about ‘gentrification’ which is, sometimes, seen as pricing local people out of the area. Instead, this is about bringing investment into an area to help further build upon an incredible sense of community. And heritage.

‘We spent around £350,000 locally last year, that’s 95% of our total revenue which comes from traded income and grants plus consultancy.’ 

Union Street is 200 years-old and was once a key connecting point for the three towns: Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport. It’s witnessed so much in its time. Harry Houdini enthralled crowds with his daring acts when he performed here in 1909. 

Some of the ‘greats’ of Victorian life would have wondered down its boulevard. Afterall, Captain Scott (of Antarctica) was born in Devonport. Ditto Linnaeus Tripe. 

Tripe went on to become one of the earliest pioneers of camera technology. He mounted huge expeditions to India and Burma to capture the countries’ unique beauty on photographic plates.     

It’s not just explorers and pioneers who’ve soaked up its creative appeal. Union Street was seen to be the finish line for pram races in the 1920s. It endured The Blitz in brave comradery and hosted the last live stage performance of Laurel and Hardy in 1954.

It certainly has a rich history and it’s one which the team at Nudge are keen to preserve for future generations. To find out more about the project, visit the 34 – 36 Union Street Share Offer on

Internal building photograph courtesy of Nudge Community Builders.

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