Merton Council and Wimbledon Concert Hall Trust have taken their first steps towards realising a long-held ambition to develop a new international concert hall in Wimbledon town centre.
The Council has agreed a twelve-month exclusivity period to work with the Trust to develop proposals for the Council’s Hartfield Road car park in Wimbledon. The site is designated in the Merton Local Plan for a range of town centre uses including a cultural venue.
The Trust’s proposals are for a 1,250 seated capacity international concert hall, designed by Pritzker prize-winning architect, Frank Gehry. His portfolio includes a wide range of commissions including the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, the Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
Talking about the Wimbledon proposals, Frank Gehry said: “Concert hall projects are the most exciting for me … I love the people, I love the challenge of it … I love music more almost than life itself. Having someone come to me with a concert hall project, my eyes light up. I’m in!”
The Trust and Merton Council want the Concert Hall to be a new community focus for the town centre, building on the Council’s Future Wimbledon masterplan. Merton Council welcomes this important first step to ensure the Trusts fundraising work is successful as the agreement is on a commercial, market focussed basis. . Any proposals being brought forward by the trust will be viable and based on full commercial terms, with no recourse to council taxpayers.
Council Leader, Councillor Mark Allison, said “Merton’s residents have contributed to our Merton 2030 vision for the borough. Our shared ambition recognises the changing nature of our town centres and the desire for more cultural and social activities at the heart of our communities. Wimbledon may already be global name thanks to the tennis Championships; but the opportunity to develop an international cultural venue fits well with our plans to reinvigorate Wimbledon town centre. The Council looks forward to working with the Trust to develop proposals that will be good for Merton’s local community.”
Anthony Wilkinson, Chair of the Wimbledon Concert Hall Trust, whose patrons include Dame Darcy Bussell DCE and Vladimir Ashkenazy, welcomed the news. He said: “The Council’s pro-active decision allows us to further develop the Gehry scheme with the local authority and put in place our funding to deliver our vision.”