Thomas Armstrong Construction has started work to transform the town’s former bus station into a workspace for digital, tech, media, and creative companies.
The project, set to replace the derelict transport exchange on Bransty Row in the town, has been backed by Sellafield, which is investing £2.6m to help convert the existing buildings on the site into conference and meeting space, health and wellbeing facilities, and eight spaces for start-ups.
There will also be a café on the ground floor which will be open to the public. The bus station has been derelict for a number of years and has planning permission for a residential development, but this was never progressed.
BEC is acting as developer; the company is a property developer owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority; Copeland and Allerdale Borough Councils; and Cumbria County Council.
The project, named the Buzz Station, is set to start this month and will complete within the next 12 months. Alongside the Buzz Station, BEC and Thomas Armstrong will also deliver the Watershed, a 2,700 sq ft co-working and digital manufacturing space.
This has been supported by nearly £1m in funding from Sellafield, and is designed as a space to house start-up businesses.
BEC’s head of property and development Rob Miller said: “Construction will commence at the site in Whitehaven this month and be completed within a year. Building both concepts side-by-side instead of two separate build projects will mean less disruption and crucially – reduce carbon emissions.”
Gary McKeating, head of community & development at Sellafield, added: “The Watershed is a potentially transformative project for west Cumbria. It will be fascinating to see the building taking shape over the coming months.
“To grow and diversify our local economy we need to create the conditions for small businesses to thrive. The Watershed will provide this by focusing support on people at the crucial early stages. This is what our social impact strategy is all about: creating opportunities that change lives.”
Both the Buzz Station and the Watershed will sit alongside BEC’s North Shore project, a £55m investment in the town which will feature a four-star hotel, a 400-space car park, and a 75,000 sq ft office building.