AFTER a rollercoaster lasting nearly three years, the future of the Irish Cultural Centre was finally secured last week after its board of directors completed the purchase of the cultural hub from the council.
The future looked bleak for the Blacks Road, Hammersmith, centre when the council announced it was being sold as part of its community buildings firesale.
But after raising millions from backers, including the Irish Government, the board, led by chairman Jim O'Hara, entered into negotiations with the local authority to buy it and last week completed the sale.
The current building will now be knocked down and work will commence on creating a new centre to be opened in about two years.
Mr O'Hara said: “We didn't just roll over and accept we were going to lose it. When we were told it was being sold it was a bombshell but it is such an important cultural beacon for not just the Irish community but the Hammersmith community and London as a whole. It would have been a tragedy to lose it.
“Now it will be here for us, our children and hopefully our children's children.”
The hub will be redeveloped into a part-five storey, part-seven storey building to provide a new community centre on the ground and first floor and 24 self-contained flats from the second floor upwards.
A new café, bar, concert hall, offices, classrooms and rooms, available for hire, will also be built.
Mr O'Hara said: “We can now look forward to the construction of a brand new purpose built centre within the next two years and our partnership with Shepherds Bush Housing Association means that additional housing will become available within the borough.
“I wish to thank the Irish government for its vital support to us in our efforts to secure the necessary funds to purchase the building. I also wish to thank the council, on behalf of everyone involved in the centre, for the cooperative manner in which we have proceeded together.”
Deputy council leader Greg Smith said: “This a fantastic deal for both the Irish community and local taxpayers as we have managed to secure the future of this much-loved community centre and improve the council’s finances at the same time."