New café plan for well-known building on Coventry riverside

A CGI of the River Sherbourne and Palmers Lane project. A new cafe has been confirmed for a key building in the area
A CGI of the River Sherbourne and Palmers Lane project. A new cafe has been confirmed for a key building in the area -Credit:Coventry city council

A building known to generations in Coventry is set to be given a new future as part of a riverside area plan for the city. The former Illingworth building on Palmer Lane is set to become a new 'arts cafe'.

It will be part cafe, part gallery said Ian Harrobin, the chair of the Historic Coventry Trust. It, alongside Coventry City Council, is spearheading the work to open up part of the hidden River Sherbourne in the city centre.

The ultimate aim is to create a riverside area with restaurants and cafes as well as public spaces where people can enjoy the view. In a video posted by the city council, Mr Harrobin explained that they have a potential operator in place to run the arts cafe.

"The plans that we are working on at the moment is to turn it into an arts cafe, it will be part art gallery, part cafe," he said. "We have a potential operator and we are just packaging together the funding and hopefully we will be able to start work as soon as the contractors are out of the way."

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The contractors he is referring to are those that are currently working on removing concrete so that the people will be able to see the river. Work on this is underway and Mr Harrobin said: "I think it fantastic, it is actually much better than I thought it was going to be."

Once these works are completed, works could start on the new arts cafe. Also, around September/October, planting will start around the area and the river should be fully opened up.

Speaking about the project on the video, Councillor Jim O'Boyle, cabinet member for jobs, regeneration and climate change, explained: "By the way, I notice what people always say, that this area is not too clever," Cllr O'Boyle said.

"We will get rid of all of the bins etc, it will be a nice area when it is done, I promise you that."

The Palmers Lane and Sherbourne River project is being paid for and championed by the council and Historic Coventry Trust and is a part of wider plans to revamp The Burges and Hales Street.

It has been on the cards for several years and was delayed by the Covid pandemic. It was given the final go-ahead in July last year but was hit by more delays until the work started last month.

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