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New contract paves way for £5.5m overhaul of Alsop's The Public

Sandwell Council is close to washing its hands of Will Alsop’s £72m The Public in West Bromwich

Despite record visitor numbers at the controversial arts centre averaging around 40,000 a month, the authority has decided to close the doors of the troubled venue on 30 November in an effort to slash £1.6 million a year in running costs.

Under a new £5.5m refurbishment plan, the Alsop-designed interior will be gutted and the building converted into an arts faculty for Sandwell College.In a statement the council told AJ: ‘The works will be delivered through a design and build contract and this contract will be let by Sandwell Council to Sandwell Local Education Partnership (Sandwell Futures).’

A disappointed Will Alsop told the AJ: ‘I fully understand Sandwell Council has budgetary problems, but they have misunderstood the real value of The Public. Things take time. In terms of visitor numbers it was doing well and I think now it is coming into its own.

‘Why are they closing down something that will regenerate that city? It is full of businesses; I don’t know where they will go. Why don’t they just leave it?’, added Alsop.

Alsop, who has been asked to make a speech at the closing ceremony said: ‘If I am free I will go and say: ‘I declare this building not closed.”

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