One of Greenwich town centre’s best-known buildings could be converted into 73 flats if its owners win approval from councillors.
Meridian House on Royal Hill, which served as Greenwich’s town hall until the 1960s, was the base of Greenwich School of Management until it went bust in 2019.
Now the Grade II-listed Art Deco building could be extended and turned into homes. Its tower, a local landmark that can be seen from as far as Catford and the Isle of Dogs, would also be opened to the public at least once a year under the proposals from Riverlow Group, which have been submitted to Greenwich Council for approval.
All 73 flats would be offered for private rent, with 11 offered at discounts of between 20 to 40 per cent – enough to get them legally classed as “affordable”.
Designed by Clifford Culpin and opened in 1939 as Greenwich Town Hall, the building was the headquarters of the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich until it merged with neighbouring Woolwich in 1965 to form the current borough. The building had been seen as a symbol of dynamic local government, but became surplus to requirements in less than three decades when the new council decided to base itself in Woolwich.
After being sold off in the early 1970s, most of its original interior features were removed, with extra floors added and offices built in the space that housed the council chamber.
Riverlow says that it tried to market the building to other higher education providers but with no success. It now says it has a “fantastic opportunity to breathe new life into this iconic building”.
Up to three new floors would be added, including two above the old council chamber. Some employment space would be kept on the ground floor – potentially offices or a co-working space – although Riverlow says it has not yet found an occupier to take on the space.
The tower’s viewing gallery will also need to be refurbished as it is in a poor condition. However, the application does not mention whether the broken lift to the top will be replaced.
The plans for Meridian House also highlight the uncertain future of the Borough Hall next door, retained by Greenwich Council when the rest of the complex was put up for sale in the early 1970s, but now on the market itself.
A heritage appraisal for Meridian House states that while the old town hall’s civic interiors have been all but lost, they have been “retained almost in their entirety” in the Borough Hall.
The Borough Hall was the home to Greenwich Dance, which moved out four years ago and is now based in Thamesmead.
In Februrary the Theatres Trust charity put the Borough Halls on its “at risk” register and said that a residential development in the old town hall could put its long-term future as a performance venue at risk.
Greenwich had hoped to lease the building to the Deptford-based theatre company Selladoor, stating the building needed £10 million to refurbish it – although that claim is disputed by some inside the council.
However, the deal fell apart. The two senior council officers promoting it – Katrina Delaney, a deputy chief executive, and Takki Sulaiman, the director for community, culture and corporate development – have both since left their roles.
The saga of the Borough Hall is said to have contributed to the ousting of council leader Danny Thorpe by Labour councillors last month.
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