Virtual tour launched for Whitehaven’s new digital and gaming hub in the former Whittles building

A virtual tour of Whitehaven’s new Digital and Gaming Hub has launched, allowing people to see what the former Whittles building could look like.

After listening to how young people aged 8 to 18 want to use the building and how they want it to look and feel, owners BEC released the virtual tour and images spanning four floors.

The listed building on Duke Street used to house furniture store John Whittle and Son Ltd until it closed its doors for the last time in September 2018.

Michael Pemberton, Chief Executive of BEC, said: “We were blown away by the number of young people who joined us at the Beacon Portal to tell us what they wanted from this amazing Georgian building that stands empty and dilapidated in the heart of their city.

“They said they wanted virtual reality, a place to game and meet friends, retro arcade games, zones, sofas, music, chill out area and open space design with many screens.

“Their parents, grandparents, caregivers told us two things. Not only do they want a safe indoor space for their kids so they don’t hang out on the street, but they also want the hub to support digital and gaming skills that will equip them for the future. “These images represent what the young people were telling us, basically to make it ‘instagrammable’ and with the fantastic facilities inside and how it will be run we will be able to meet what the adults want too.

“This Digital and Gaming Hub encompasses everything BEC is about. We are passionate about bringing unloved spaces like this and the bus station back to life for the benefit of our communities.”

• The open plan ground floor, overlooking King Street, will contain a reception area, toilets and could contain a healthy grab-and-go style cafe, along with retro arcade games, workspaces, multi-screens and toilets.

• The first and second floors appear to have ride-on games and multiple virtual reality booths. It could also house a green digital room and sound studio for recording and music creation.

• It is hoped that the top floor will serve as a relaxing space, with board games, sofas and books. It could be a rooftop terrace with far reaching views of the city and harbour.

Young people and the wider community can join the hub for a small fee, allowing them to visit and use the mix of free and paid facilities. If desired, parents, guardians and relatives can track their children’s visits and preload credit to manage spending and time within the hub.

Stephen Holland, Head of Development at BEC, said: “It’s so important that we make this place where young people really want to go. We wanted to talk to them to understand what they like, so these conversations guided our design suggestions on how the space could be used. We’re also asking those who participated in the consultation and signed up for future updates for their thoughts on these ideas to make sure they fit the bill.

“But this hub is much more than just a place to meet and play. It is about supporting the growth of the digital and gaming sector in West Cumbria and supporting future employment opportunities as the city diversifies its economy beyond the nuclear and supply chain.”

He added: “As we engage with local schools, colleges and other organizations about how to use the facilities and support the hub, we are also working closely with Barclays Eagle Labs and others to make this a support hub for local SMEs, start-ups and entrepreneurs.”

BEC hired NORR architects for the project who worked for them on the award-winning bus station.

Take the virtual tour here:

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