Reading centre proposed for city park

The Mansion House in Calderstones Park, owned by Liverpool City Council, is to become a specialist health and education centre run by the Reader Organisation, a social enterprise with its roots in Liverpool University.

The Grade II-listed mansion, along with its coach house and stables, will be transformed into the International Centre of Reading & Wellbeing.

The Reader Organisation works with individuals and groups such as children from deprived areas and the elderly to build-up people's confidence and self-esteem through a range of reading initiatives.

Jane Davis, founder and director of The Reader Organisation, said: "Our vision for Calderstones is a community for everyone, with reading at its heart. We will ask people what they want and need and then connect them with it. We are very excited about this opportunity and think that at Calderstones we have the perfect location to make this a regeneration success story for our city."

Mansion House, which formerly housed council offices, was put on the market in October 2012 by Liverpool City Council, because it was considered surplus to the council's operational requirements.

Tenders for the building were invited, with bidders expected to demonstrate how they would bring the mansion back into use and back into good condition, while retaining and enhancing the fabric of the building.

Following a competitive tender process, The Reader Organisation was chosen by the council because of a carefully considered and well thought out bid, which looked at providing a valuable community resource while bringing the mansion and its associated buildings back into use in a way which is sensitive and complementary to the wider park.

The Reader Organisation has now been granted a six-month preferred developer position, during which time the council will work closely with them to draw up a feasibility plan for the International Centre of Reading and Wellbeing. Once this is completed, the council will provide the charity with a long-term lease for the building.

Cllr Malcolm Kennedy, member for regeneration, said: "There was a good deal of interest in the building, and we considered all the proposals carefully. We chose The Reader Organisation because we were impressed by what was a very strong bid. They have some fantastic ideas which we believe will not only bring the building back into use in a meaningful way but will help protect its future."

The Reader Organisation is working with Mersey Care NHS, Plus Dane Group, Liverpool University, and is advised by consultants Cass Associates and Pulse Regeneration. They expect to take up residency at Calderstones in August, whilst retaining their current base in West Everton.

Development of the full International Centre for Reading and Wellbeing will be phased and is expected to be completed in December 2015.

Running alongside their work through the International Centre of Reading and Wellbeing, The Reader Organisation will also seek to carry out physical improvements to Mansion House – within the limits set by its listed status – through a series of bids to the Heritage Lottery Fund and through their own fundraising initiatives.

The Georgian mansion was built in 1828 and was once home to Cunard Line shipping magnate, Charles MacIver.

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Impressive plans for a very impressive organisation. Good luck!