Leicester City Council buys the site of its Richard III centre for £850,000
Leicester City Council has spent £850,000 on a building it hopes to turn into a Richard III visitor centre.
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby yesterday gave the go-ahead to buy the freehold of St Martin's Place – part of the former Leicester Grammar School, in New Street.
The vacant Victorian building is a few hundred yards from the city council car park where the suspected remains of the last Plantagenet king were discovered earlier this autumn.
The building could be converted into a historic homage to Richard III if the remains are identified as his.
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Sir Peter said: "It's very evident that St Martin's Place is a building that has potential to be used for a number of purposes.
"It is particularly of interest because it's immediately adjacent to the excavation site and also to our social services offices.
"Some of those offices are more suited to continue as offices than others, so I am convinced this is an investment worth making."
The 10,000sq ft neo-Gothic building was home to Leicester Grammar School until 2008 and stands near to Leicester Cathedral, where campaigners want the remains interred if they are confirmed as those of Richard III.
University of Leicester academics are carrying out DNA tests on the skeleton.
Experts will use the results in conjunction with other clues, such as the battle scars, the burial site and facial reconstruction to determine whether or not they have unearthed the 500-year-old king, who was slain at the Battle of Bosworth.
Richard Buckley, co-director of the university's archaeology service, welcomed news of a visitors' centre.
He said: "It sounds like a really good idea which will be a fantastic resource for Leicester and it will help people learn about the city's medieval history.
"It will certainly be popular. We have been quite busy giving talks to local groups about the dig, and we've had huge crowds visiting the site itself.
"Anything which helps the public to understand the city's history will not be wasted."
Martin Traynor, chief executive of Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce, said: "My view is that this is an excellent strategic purchase
"The mayor has recognised the importance of what Richard III can do for the visitor numbers to our city, and the economic impact that can have on leisure and tourism."
The results of the DNA testing and facial reconstruction of the remains will be revealed in the new year.