Oldham Council has approved plans to refurbish premises to create a new Digital Enterprise Hub in the heart of our Independent Quarter.
Cabinet tonight (March 21) gave the green light to begin works to repair and renovate the former Wahoo nightclub building (plus the adjacent former Kiss bar) on Yorkshire Street. Both properties are local authority-owned and form part of the same terrace.
Wayra UK Ltd and Hack Oldham will become tenants at the new Digital Enterprise Hub – and together will provide an entirely new kind of venture and offer for the town centre.
The hub will be a space where new enterprises and businesses can be encouraged and helped to grow across the local digital, technology and creative sectors.
Access to low-cost and flexible workspace – plus equipment geared to hosting individual entrepreneurs and Small to Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the digital and creative sectors will be provided by Hack Oldham on the ground floor and basement.
Wayra will be occupying the first and second floors of the old Wahoo bar – providing a work environment and intensive support for fledging enterprises via its established “pre-accelerator” programme.
Approval of the plans means refurbishment works can get underway next month.
Councillor Jean Stretton, Oldham Council Leader, said: “This is a first for Oldham town centre and a perfect fit for the vibe we are trying to create in our Independent Quarter.”
“The Digital Enterprise Hub will be a focal point for entrepreneurs and creatives to get together to share ideas, innovate and unlock each other’s potential in a low-cost but good quality environment.
“This building has been vacant for some time and this new use fits our wider vision for the Independent Quarter area as a place where intrepid, inspired and motivated people who want to ‘have a go’ can find the launch pad and support they need to help get them up and running.”
Wayra UK is a start-up ‘accelerator’ that is part of Telefonica Open Future, the programme that integrates the different initiatives of the whole Telefonica Group related to entrepreneurship and innovation. It already has a thriving London base and they want to now establish a northern hub – with Oldham as the ideal location.
Hack Oldham, a group of creatives, will relocate to the hub from existing premises nearby. They recently become a social enterprise and their activity compliments that of Wayra UK.
Andy Powell, founder of Hack Oldham, said: “There’s lots of exciting things happening in Oldham at the moment and we are really thrilled to be involved in the Digital Enterprise Hub.”
“There’s an obvious gap in provision for something like this and the location is ideal. The hub is going to be a brilliant place for digital innovation and creative start-ups – we simply can’t wait to move in!.”
Refurbishment works should complete at the site in September with a view to the new hub opening for business in October 2016.
The Council is also in negotiations with a potential retail tenant seeking to lease the ground floor and basement of the former Kiss bar premises.