Ipswich Borough Council is currently working with the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to secure a development grant and has also appointed a fundraising team to secure the money necessary to complete what will be one of Suffolk's biggest and most exciting visitor attractions.
It has built up a High Street Campus project team, led by John Devlin, the man behind the Gateshead Quays project and the Millennium Bridge over the Tyne. Rick Mather Architects, which masterminded the recent extension to Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, are on board along with Craigmyle Consultants, the fundraisers that turned the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket into a reality.
The High Street Campus is an ambitious scheme - it will be the biggest ever heritage and arts project in the town and aims to have a major impact on the local economy, bringing in around £10 million each year. It will transform Ipswich Museum and its adjacent buildings (the former Art School, High Street Exhibition Gallery and New Wolsey Studio) into a state-of-the-art complex, bringing together the town's rich historic treasures, contemporary art and theatre and provide a better visitor experience with café facilities. It will also become a centre of learning as the Council develops links with University Campus Suffolk.
Mr Devlin explained: "Currently, the Museum and the Art School Gallery are both separate even though they are next door to one another. Visitors to one rarely come to the other. We are going to bring them together using an internal ‘street' to create a bigger and more rewarding attraction. We are also going to provide new and more extensive gallery space so we can put more of our treasures on show. This is very much a team effort and we are getting everything in place to take this forward."
Councillor Bryony Rudkin, Culture portfolio-holder, said: "We are currently preparing our second bid for Heritage Lottery Funding, which we are confident will gain support. We received a lot of positive feedback from the HLF after our initial bid was put on hold and we have been advised to demonstrate public support for our plans. So, we are now calling on local communities to get behind us and show the passion for their heritage and town. This campus will tell their story and demonstrate how Ipswich, the oldest English town, came into being and acted as a gateway to the world over the past millennium."