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Council backs £3m hall project at first meeting at university

By Brendan McDaid

Derry City Council has unanimously agreed to become lead partner in a project that will see a major extension to the Apprentice Boys’ headquarters.

The decision to support the project was taken at last night’s full council meeting which was held in the unfamiliar surroundings of the Great Hall in the Magee campus of the University of Ulster for the first time, due to renovations at the Guildhall.

The new £3m Apprentice Boys project will now be fast-tracked to ensure the extended Memorial Hall is a key part of the 2013 City of Culture infrastructure.

A project manager is now set to be appointed to oversee the new project, funded by the Strategic Investment Board.

Key funding for the overall project meanwhile will come from the Special European Union Programmes Body (SEUPB).

In a report to councillors, new town clerk and chief executive Sharon O’Connor said: “The Apprentice Boys of Derry are working on an important project which will enhance the city and make a key contribution to 2013. It is hoped that the project will be ready by late 2013.”

Derry City Council's contribution to the project will be limited to ‘in kind’ general support, office accommodation for the project manager and management support.

DUP councillor Joe Miller, proposing council take on the role of lead partner, stating that the project will “dovetail well into what the city is trying to do”.

Background

The Memorial Hall is the headquarters of the Apprentice Boys of Derry. Known locally as The Mem, it was built in 1871 on a site known as Foy’s Factory at the junction of Society Street and Magazine Street. At the time the neo-gothic site cost £300 and the building, designed originally by John Guy Ferguson, had a Scottish baronial facade but contained just four rooms.

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