Historic Abbey Mills factory, Leicester, will become flats complex for the elderly
A Victorian factory once earmarked for demolition is now set to be preserved as a multi-million pound complex of flats for the elderly and vulnerable.
The disused Abbey Mills building is to be turned into 78 flats by social landlord Asra in an £8.75 million scheme.
The organisation had originally planned to knock down the five-storey factory, off Abbey Park Lane, next to the Grand Union Canal, and replace it with an eight-storey block of 24 apartments and 11 town houses.
Now, the plan is to preserve the historic former stocking factory.
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Under the proposals, it will be converted into "extra care" homes, where residents live independently but have staff on hand to prepare food and help when needed.
Asra chief executive Matt Cooney said: "We are delighted to be working in partnership with Leicester City Council to convert and refurbish the historic Abbey Mills.
"The building used to be a stockings factory and became famous when it provided Captain Scott with his warmth-preserving clothing when he attempted to be the first person to reach the South Pole.
"Our investment will mean the historic nature of this building is preserved and will now have a lasting legacy by providing ground-breaking care to the over-55s in Leicester."
The city council yesterday agreed a £750,000 contribution towards the project, with a further £912,000 coming from the Government.
About £1.25 million had already been put aside for supported living projects and the council had planned to re-model between 18 and 24 of its houses.
Now, £750,000 from this pot will be redirected to support Abbey Mills.
The authority will be placing people in its care in 50 out of the 78 flats, while the remaining 28 will be privately rented.
Councillor Rita Patel, assistant city mayor for adult social care, said: "This really is a fantastic opportunity for us. By re-directing some of this money to Abbey Mills, we will be able to provide people with more extra care facilities much more quickly.
"Not only will this redevelopment provide much-needed supported living accommodation, it will be preserving an important building in Leicester's architectural heritage."
Asra already owns an extra care facility, The Wolsey, next to Abbey Mills, which has 63 self-contained flats.
It has on-site care staff, non-resident management staff and a community alarm service.
There is also a lounge, dining room, garden, hobby room, hairdressing salon and an assisted bathing facility.
It is proposed the refurbished Abbey Mills will be connected to the adjoining Wolsey building via a bridge, to allow the new residents access to existing facilities. The project is set to be completed by March 2015.
Leicester Victorian Society spokesman Grahame Lees said: "We were very upset when we heard this fine factory might be demolished, but it is pleasing to see it is now set to be brought back into use.
"They did a very good job with the next door building so I hope this too will be a good example of a new use for an old building."