Merton council agrees to work with campaigners on town centre scheme
Frank Gehry's original concept designs for a Wimbledon concert hall
Plans for an international concert hall in Wimbledon town centre are a step closer to reality after Merton Council has agreed to work with the Wimbledon Concert Hall Trust on their long-held ambition.
The Council has agreed a twelve-month exclusivity period to work with the Trust to develop proposals for the Council's Hartfield Road car park in Wimbledon.
The site, known locally at the Morrison’s car park, is designated in the Merton Local Plan for a range of town centre uses including a cultural venue.
The proposed new hall would be likely to provide a venue for the annual Wimbledon International Music Festival, a home for the Wimbledon Choral Society and a community function.
The Trust’s proposals are for an 1,800 seated capacity international concert hall, designed by Pritzker prize-winning architect, Frank Gehry. His portfolio includes a wide range of commissions including: The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao: The Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
The concept designs first put forward in 2019 by the US architect were for a 1,250-seat venue, with second space seating 300 people.
Since a £100m fundraising drive was put in place by the Trust, the scheme has grown in size to accommodate an extra 250 people.
Talking about the Wimbledon proposals, Frank Gehry said: "Concert hall projects are the most exciting for me … I love the people, I love the challenge of it … I love music more almost than life itself. Having someone come to me with a concert hall project, my eyes light up. I’m in!"
The Trust and Merton Council want the Concert Hall to be a new community focus for the town centre, building on the Council’s Future Wimbledon masterplan.
Merton Council said it is important first any proposals being brought forward by the trust will be viable and based on full commercial terms, with no recourse to council taxpayers.
Anthony Wilkinson, Chair of the Wimbledon Concert Hall Trust, whose patrons include Dame Darcy Bussell and Vladimir Ashkenazy, said: "The Council’s pro-active decision allows us to further develop the Gehry scheme with the local authority and put in place our funding to deliver our vision."
Council Leader, Councillor Mark Allison, added: "Merton’s residents have contributed to our Merton 2030 vision for the borough. Our shared ambition recognises the changing nature of our town centres and the desire for more cultural and social activities at the heart of our communities. Wimbledon may already be global name thanks to the tennis Championships; but the opportunity to develop an international cultural venue fits well with our plans to reinvigorate Wimbledon town centre. The Council looks forward to working with the Trust to develop proposals that will be good for Merton’s local community."
The council is thought to want to re-develop the whole Piazza area as part of the scheme, to a potential height of up to six storeys.
@SaveWimbledonTown responded on Twitter: "I imagine 30m+ (high) on Broadway side and taller on Cyril Black Way end. Hope I'm wrong. Until I see or hear otherwise, PLS all eyes on this."
@SarahKHalford said: "I'm guessing any concert hall will need to be tall. That's a given. It's how it's designed and the associated architecture around it that I'm interested in."
March 28, 2022