Our iconic Birdcage Walk building is 122 years old, and like many old structures it is in need of extensive refurbishment and modernisation for the Institution to continue to be able to use it and to make it fit for the next 122 years.
In this episode Helen discusses what lies ahead for our London-based home, and why it is so important to our 120,000 members.
One Birdcage Walk was opened in May 1899 as the Institution’s new HQ. In 1909, the Institution bought Storey’s Gate Tavern, which along with an earlier purchase of 5 Princes Street meant IMechE HQ could expand eastwards. In 1958, IMechE bought 3 Birdcage Walk and the two buildings were formally joined in 1960. In recent years 3 Birdcage Walk has been used as offices for staff and tenants while Birdcage 1 has been a home for the membership; with meeting rooms, our beautiful library and lecture theatre.
Doing nothing to the building is not an option as the work has now become urgent and it has been estimated that to bring the building up to the standards expected of an international headquarters it will cost around £16m to complete.
The Real Estate Strategy Group (RESG), set up to identify possible way’s forward, is headed by Trustee Helena Rivers whose expertise is in the heritage building sector. The group has looked at a number of options for the building and taken advise from a range of experts in the subject.
RESG’s strong recommendation is to sell a 250-year lease of 3 Birdcage Walk to provide funds to refurbish 1 Birdcage Walk, and hopefully also generate a cash surplus. This proposal has the full backing of the Trustee Board, Finance Board, Audit & Risk Committee and Strategy Committee.
In Quarter 3 of 2020 the RESG undertook a limited consultation involving Council, Young Members Board, Past Presidents and Trustee Board. Overall, there was similar feedback from each group. The survey found 73% in favour of retaining 1 Birdcage Walk and 27% against. Asked if HQ should be relocated, 54% favoured a headquarters in London versus 46% supporting regional hubs. These results showed strong support for keeping our HQ at Birdcage Walk, but how does the rest of the membership feel about this?
The consultation has now been widened to gain as much input from members as possible on this historic decision.
Helen spoke with Alice Bunn, IMechE CEO, Helena Rivers, RESG Chair, Terry Spall Past President and David Nowell, Trustee, to find out more about the proposed ideas and what a refurbishment of the building would offer to members in the UK and overseas.
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