THE rebirth of Freeman Street as a community and cultural hub is to begin with an investment of almost £8 million by the regional arm of the world’s largest and most famous young person’s organisation. YMCA Humber is seeking permission to develop a four-storey building with real ambition to bring its charity back into the heart of Grimsby and the East Marsh.
On the site of the former House of Holland store, the development will comprise of 71 high quality units, a cultural cafe providing professional training and work opportunities, health and wellbeing space, conference facilities and vibrant exhibition and performance spaces. A multi-denominational chapel will also be included as an essential element for this Christian-based organisation.
With a vision embedded in creating aspirational futures for the people it supports, YMCA Humber will have more than 50 employees at the new development – all transferring from the current site in Peaks Lane.
The plan has the support of the Enrolled Freemen of Grimsby, who are playing a key role in the street’s redevelopment. Detailed plans have been drawn up by Hodson Architects and all parties see this as the catalyst to realise their vision. Alongside the new YMCA Humber development there is a separate plan being developed for 16 town houses and a further 72 one and two-bed flats available for shared ownership sale or affordable rent. The latter is part of the Freemen’s overall strategy for the street, artistic impressions for which have previously been released.
This is a perfect fit, says YMCA Humber Chief Executive Debbie Cook, who is determined to build a bright future for both the organisation locally and the people who it supports.
“YMCA Humber has a proud history, with a Christian ethos embedded in all we stand for. This ambitious, exciting plan is about the YMCA stepping up as a community leader to provide aspirational accommodation and opportunity for our residents, and the local community, aiming to ensure they have good futures ahead of them,” said Debbie.
“YMCA has existed for 175 years and we’ve been working in Grimsby and the surrounding area since 1882. Basing ourselves in the heart of this community, where our support is needed, is really important to us. We will be able to work alongside partners and other groups to offer people, who need our help, true opportunity. It’s exciting to be part of this complete new future for both Freeman Street and the whole of the area,” she added.
Recalling how YMCA Humber in Grimsby is remembered by many, as a place for community involvement, Debbie is confident this will be the case again once the organisation reconnects with the heart of the town. It was in Heneage Road before moving out to Peaks Lane in the mid-1970s. YMCA Humber’s other facility, the 26-bed Foyer, on the other side of Riby Square, will remain open, with plans to house residents in either building depending on need – ensuring the right fit for the individuals and the community.
Architect Mark Hodson, who has masterminded the whole plan for Freeman Street, said: “There is no room for being timid in any of the plans we have for the area and YMCA Humber’s plans are certainly not timid, they are fantastic. This is a massive step in bridging the divide between the community and vital services.
“The starting point here has to be aspirational and not ‘that will do’ – it has to be the best,” he added.
Chairman of the Enrolled Freemen, Stephen White, is equally supportive. He said: “YMCA Humber has the people of the town at its heart, with a Christian ethos. It is about being part of rebuilding this community and this development fits in with that perfectly.”
The plan has also been welcomed by North East Lincolnshire Council’s portfolio holder for regeneration, Councillor John Fenty, who added: “Freeman Street was a huge cultural hub of Grimsby and it’s great to see some interested parties working together to realise a vision that could breathe new life into the area.
“The YMCA has a long and proud history of helping people who find themselves in a tough spot, and I’m really pleased to see them renewing their commitment to this area and its people. I’m looking forward to seeing these plans develop.”
Listen to the exclusive interview with Debbie Cook here
You can see more about YMCA Humber plans and how they fit in with the overall East Marsh masterplan at a drop-in event from 1.30pm until 6pm on Tuesday July 2 at The Hub, Freeman Street Market, DN32 7DS.