£2m bill to restore fire-hit factory
City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby says he expects it will cost at least £2 million to restore a fire-damaged historic factory.
Much of the 18th-century Friar's Mill building in Leicester's Bath Lane was wrecked by a blaze in July, to the dismay of heritage enthusiasts.
Sir Peter immediately pledged to protect the remains of the riverside building.
Yesterday, during a visit to the site, he told the Leicester Mercury: "Since the fire I have asked for a full architectural survey to be done on what remains of the building. That has been completed and it says the building can be saved.
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"I am determined that it will be. It is a major landmark."
He said the council had been contacted by a developer interested in taking the property on, but if that option failed the premises could be compulsorily purchased and redeveloped.
He said: "We need to see what case makes the most economic sense. Buying the building will be the inexpensive part. I have had some rough figures and it will cost at least a couple of million pounds to restore it to some serviceable use.
"The damage to the building was a terrible tragedy but we do have an opportunity here.
"This is a vast area that desperately needs regeneration. This building, I think, would make lovely riverside residences.
"If there was a successful project to restore it, respecting the heritage of the property, it could unlock further projects.
"We are just a couple of hundred yards from Jubilee Square and there is great potential.
"The owners of the building were a company in the Virgin Islands that collapsed, so effectively it is now in the hands of the bank.
"We have had some very useful conversations with them and I hope it will not be long before I can announce a definite decision on the future of the building."
After the blaze, Sir Peter ordered builders on to the site to secure it.
However, as reported in the Mercury earlier this week, vandals eluded the 24-hour security to daub graffiti on the side of the property.
Sir Peter said it was "very annoying," but that the graffiti was superficial and could be easily removed.
Contractors AR Demolition Ltd is providing the security and completing preliminary restoration work for the council.
Owner Richard Dolman said: "I think we will be here for another three weeks but it depends if the council asks to do further work.
"The graffiti is not great, but they have got in from the riverside end of the building away from the hut.
"You have to balance providing security with the needs of the public purse, but we will be putting more on."
Leicester Civic Society chairman Stuart Bailey said: "I am pleased the mayor remains committed to not letting this building go the same way as so many other important historic buildings – that is, lost to vandals or fire.
"If private developers do not take it on, it is right the council should take the lead."