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Magna plans business centre after Stirling Prize triumph

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Magna chief executive Stephen Feber has revealed plans for a further series of phases around the Stirling Prize-winning building to capitalise on its broad appeal.

Feber told the AJ that having won what he felt was a 'very tense' play-off against the favourite for the prize, the Eden Project, he will now talk to Chris Wilkinson about developing further elements, including more exhibition space, a business park and even a school.

Feber said phase two of the massively popular project - which has seen it achieve its 300,000 visitor target for the year inside six months - will be the provision of extra exhibition space and temporary space next Easter. Exhibitions will have an emphasis on Robotics, a subject area it is developing with Sheffield University.

Phase three will then be a proposed business park and trade exhibition centre which could also be designed by Wilkinson Eyre - Feber was to discuss the plans with Wilkinson today. Phase four, which Feber stressed was more of a 'blue sky' enterprise, will be a technically focused school in order to build on the educational success of the Magna project.

'We've got 15 acres developable on an adjacent site we can purchase for the business park, ' said Feber. 'It's not 'landlocked' like so many of the big Millennium Commission projects which are in areas of high real estate prices. And it's a brownfield development.'

Feber has already briefly discussed the plans with Urban Task Force supremo Lord Rogers at the Stirling event on Saturday.

Winning was not a total surprise, however.

Feber said he had felt it was a play-off with Eden based on the judges' reactions to the project after he showed them round Magna.

'It's a tremendous boost, ' he said of the £20,000 prize, which he thought was testament to its 'working in the grain of human nature' and, unlike the Dome, working well with its exhibitions by Event Communications. It was also a project which 'exceeded visitor expectations' and to which people returned - one visitor 15 times already.

'And it's the first time Rotherham has won anything like this, ' said Feber. 'Wilkinson Eyre is a good choice. Chris is very good at handling big volumes - not all architects are. And he's very easy to work with - no silly temper tantrums there.'

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council leader Mark Edgell added: 'As a positive symbol of what can be achieved against a backdrop of economic decline, Magna gives all hope for the future and cannot but help wider efforts to breathe new life into the area.'

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