The landmark former YMCA building is set to undergo a transformation into ‘an inspirational hub for economic and social activity in the heart of Merthyr Tydfil’.
The Grade II Listed building, which has been derelict for more than a decade, is to receive investment of £8.6m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Enterprise Programme, Welsh Government’s Building for the Future and Transforming Towns programmes and the County Borough Council.
The project aims to turn the YMCA into 10 separate letting units in ‘high quality commercial space in a uniquely historic setting’, bringing the building back into use for businesses and the local community.
“This development will create an innovative and collaborative workspace to attract new and existing businesses into the town centre,” said Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Transformation and Commercialisation Cllr Geraint Thomas.
“The YMCA was originally conceived as a centre of social advancement and personal improvement and has become a symbol of Merthyr Tydfil striving for regeneration,” he added.
“Its loss would have created a void in the town centre’s distinctive heritage and signalled a continuation of decline. It will now be conserved to the highest standard, preserving the striking exterior.”
The four-storey, terracotta-faced structure is a ‘prominent building of international significance, dominant still in the modern townscape’, and was created by leading Welsh architect Sir Percy Thomas in 1911.
“The building makes a major contribution towards a significant historic public space, formed by the raised promenade and walkway on the south side of the building, a key access flow for pedestrian flow through the town,” said an officers’ report.
“It contributes towards the character and appearance of the Victorian residential area to the north of the site, which is currently blighted by the condition of the YMCA.
“With 954m2 of integrated and flexible commercial units, it will provide an inspirational hub for economic activity in the heart of Merthyr Tydfil.”
Lee Waters, Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Climate Change, said: “I’m delighted we have been able to support this exciting project that will see the transformation of an iconic listed building.
“Repurposing the YMCA building will support the wider regeneration of Merthyr Tydfil and I hope it becomes yet another example to show what can happen when we act now to revitalise our town centres to ensure they are fit for the future.
“Through our Transforming Towns programme, we are providing £136m to further support the economic and social recovery of our town and city centres across Wales. And our Town Centre First policy – embedded in Wales’s national development plan, Future Wales – means that town and city centre sites should be the first consideration for all decisions on the location of workplaces and services.”
Andrew White, Director Wales, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Investing in heritage means investing in the community it belongs to, which is why we are proud to support this regeneration project. It will not only preserve this important building but will also regenerate the local economy and be enjoyed by locals and visitors.”
John Weaver (Contractors) has been successful in winning the contract for the redevelopment work. The company has a building conservation arm focused on ensuring existing landmarks and heritage buildings – which form the backbone of a significant portion of the Welsh tourism industry – are kept safe, usable and aesthetically correct.
Managing Director Terry Edwards said: “We’re delighted to be chosen as the contractor to deliver this prestigious conservation project for Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council and its associated stakeholders.
“Our embedded conservation teams are focused on ensuring existing landmarks and heritage buildings such as the YMCA are brought back to life in order to be enjoyed by the future generations for many years to come.
“It’s an honour and privilege to be given the opportunity to make a real difference to this wonderful landmark in the town centre of Merthyr Tydfil.”