KIRKLEES College has taken over possession of Dewsbury’s historic Pioneer House as restoration efforts reach the final stages.
The last of the major structural work came to an end in June and the prominent town centre landmark has now been handed over to the college to make the building “fit for purpose”.
Pioneer House will become part of Kirklees College’s town centre ‘Learning Quarter’ and is due to open to students in September next year.
Originally built for the Dewsbury Pioneers Industrial Society in 1878, over the years Pioneer House was home to a wide variety of tenants, including a theatre, cinema, library, French polishers, butchers, cobblers and an Italian restaurant.
In the early 2000s it fell into disrepair and the local authority began legal proceedings in 2009 to compulsorily purchase it from notorious developer Stayton in order to protect it from further decay, resulting in a public inquiry in November, 2010.
Kirklees won Government permission to take it from Stayton in March, 2011.
After eight years, several delays and millions of pounds of public money, the building is finally close to being completed.
Coun Peter McBride, Kirklees cabinet member for regeneration, said: “Pioneer House is such a landmark building, the council took the view that we wanted to protect it from further decline and bring it back to life, and initially undertook a phase one programme of work to make it wind- and water-tight.
“A lot of further essential works were then undertaken in phase two, including the installation of a new metal frame throughout, new floors across building three as well as major flooring repairs to buildings one and two.
“The basement has been tanked out, and now has a fully operational sump system to fully maintain a dry basement.
“Various elements of the historical features of the building have been saved and restored, such as the original Victorian ‘Minton Hollins’ tiling, original shopfronts to buildings two and three – including Edwardian signage – stained glass panels and balustrading to name but a few.
“Through partnership and the financial support of Kirklees Council, Kirklees College, National Lottery Heritage Fund and Leeds Enterprise Partnership, we’re really pleased to be able to hand possession of the building over to the college, where we’re sure it will be in good hands.”