The university is in talks to relocate its Warrington campus to the £142m town centre mixed-use scheme being delivered by the council and Muse Developments.
Under the plans, the University of Chester would occupy two sites within the regenerated area of Time Square in Warrington, moving from its current location on Crab Lane in the Fearnhead suburb, which was deemed unfit for purpose and levels of present and future demand in a university-led review last year.
The university is in the process of negotiating a lease to occupy an undisclosed “prime property” within Time Square. The property, which would benefit from high footfall because of its location, according to Chester, would enable more people to engage directly with the university through an information and learning hub.
The flexible space would be used for a variety of activities and events, and would allow students and staff easy access to public transport links and leisure and retail facilities at Time Square, helping students to contribute more to the local economy.
The development, which is being delivered by the council’s regeneration agency Warrington & Co and Muse as development manager, features a 13-screen Cineworld cinema and 70,000 sq ft of bars and restaurants. It is also home to Warrington Council’s new 103,000 sq ft office and a 1,160-space car park.
Meanwhile, Chester also wants to lease a second building near Time Square but not part of the main complex, which would accommodate most of the spaces for the university’s core teaching and specialist facilities. The footprint “may ultimately extend beyond this”, the university said.
It did not provide the estimated square footage of the space it is eyeing. Muse has been contacted for further information and comment.
Under the proposals, Chester would transfer all its Warrington campus provision to the town centre by September 2022 and is considering options for its current site, in consultation with Warrington Council.
Care would be taken to preserve the campus’s history in collaboration with alumni, while the Warrington Wolves rugby club, whose training facilities are at the Crab Lane campus, have been kept appraised, the university said.
Professor Eunice Simmons, the University of Chester’s vice-chancellor, said: “Warrington is a dynamic and forward-thinking town and our higher profile will facilitate tapping into potential new markets, including higher-level vocational skills alongside traditional degrees.
“Warrington is also a town with a strong sense of social responsibility, which aligns with the university’s strategic vision to provide our ‘citizen students’ with a ‘premium, personalised and purposeful’ experience.
“For example, many members of the public in Warrington may already have been taught, treated or protected by our local Education, Health and Social Care or Policing graduates without realising it.
“We look forward to working more closely with employers, schools and partner colleges to support a joined-up approach to local and regional employment needs.”
The move will also enable the university to be “embedded into the Warrington economy, responding to local need and demand while focussing on areas of growth and supporting post-Covid economic and cultural recovery,” Simmons added.