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British Museum on verge of PFI deal for study centre

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The British Museum is on the brink of signing a ground-breaking pfi deal with Bovis Europe, Granada and Parkes Inc to create a huge new study centre sandwiched between a 256-bed hotel on the upper floors and commercial space on the lower.

The museum bought the former Royal Mail West Central Sorting Office in New Oxford Street, London, in September 1995 and has secured £8.1million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to convert it. It plans to open the collections as a 21,000m2 textile or study centre, including its department of Ethnography, and has appointed Tate & Hindle Design as project architect.

Inside the highly serviced building will be space for administration and restoration areas, as well as zones devoted to research. The hotel element of the project is new build and ranged over four floors, while at ground-floor and basement level there are plans for a wine bar/restaurant, shops and perhaps a health centre. The whole £30 million scheme has planning permission and construction is due to start in May this year and open in early 2001 after moving collections from the British Museum less than 200m away.

Under the deal the museum will pay £3 million per year to the 'bpg Solutions' consortium for servicing the facilities, and in 25 years the ground-floor commercial space passes back to the museum. After 40 years the hotel space also reverts back and the museum is free to either continue leasing the areas or convert them into additional storage space.

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