Demolition due next month as work on new tapestry centre nears

How the centre will look.
How the centre will look.

Hopes that the new £6.7m Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre will help create a “cultural and arts quarter” in Galashiels were shared last week.

The idea was shared during an update which also confirmed the demolition of the old Poundstretcher store, to make way for the visitor centre, will start next month.

The old Poundstretcher in Galashiels.

The old Poundstretcher in Galashiels.

Councillors approved both its demolition as well as internal and external alterations to the neighbouring old Post Office back in November.

And last week the authority’s service director for assets and infrastructure, Martin Joyce, provided an update on the plans, saying this is just the start.

“We are hoping to get the community involved,” Mr Joyce told Galashiels Community Council.

“The tapestry is a static exhibit that won’t change, but the ground floor will be a rotating display.

“That is to make sure we attract people back time and time again.”

He suggested the Channel Street site is perfectly situated, close to the nearby MacArts Centre on Bridge Street, for creating a “cultural and arts quarter.”

Mr Joyce also defended some criticism of the design, adding: “The architect who is doing the designs has quite a significant track record in contemporary designs. That firm is currently re-constructing the Glasgow School of Art.

“There is also quite a lot of history to the stonework on the old Post Office building.

“One of the proposals is to celebrate that in how we join the two buildings together. The other proposal the artist has is at the ground floor level, where they wish to design some form of artwork that could be carved into the stonework at the main entrance to complement the tapestry.”

He also confirmed the building will host a small cafe, shop and flexible space for educational use.

Galashiels Community Council chair, Judith Cleghorn, welcomed the update and suggested local artists could be involved in the rotating displays, adding: “There is a huge lot happening in Galashiels and I think it’s absolutely amazing.

“Would it be sensible to start looking at other uses for the ground floor in the tapestry building now?”

The town’s Scottish Borders councillors also welcomed the update, with Harry Scott saying: “Most of the groups that I have spoken to are supporting it now, even I am supporting it now.

“What is the point in undermining it? Making it work is the best thing to do.”

Fellow councillor Euan Jardine added: “It gives a beacon for Galashiels. If we can better Galashiels as a destination it is going to be good, not just for Gala, but for the whole of the Borders.”

The day-to-day running of the building will be managed by Live Borders, the charitable trust responsible for the running of public libraries, museums, halls and community centres.

The bulk of the building work will take place between September this year and January 2020, followed by a three-month fit-out.

Should all go to plan, the new centre would open to public in April 2020, ready for the summer season of that year.

The centre is expected to attract more than 50,000 visitors a year, creating 16 jobs.

It is also expected to generate almost £900,000 for the Borders economy, supporting a further 17 jobs.