Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Bearwood's Community Cafe Progress Report!

Following our posting last week about Bearwood Chapel's Community Cafe project we just knew we had to find out more. 

Fortunately, Dave from Bearwood Chapel pointed us in the right direction and we were able to get in contact with Bearwood resident and architect Bob Sharples for an update on the High Street Presence Project.

Bob was involved in Thimblemill Library extension and the two recent extensions at Bearwood School, he has been the spokesperson for Sandwell Library Users and has been on the front page of the Guardian Education Supplement.

This is what Bob told welovebearwood....

"The concept came about about 18 years ago when I ran an architectural workshop on how to improve the chapel and its impact on the locality.

The opportunity to acquire the building at the top of the drive came up earlier this year. I carried out an initial survey followed by a full dilapidation survey. When the all the facts were known around the technical bits - what are our chances for planning, what are building regulation issues and are there any party wall issues, I was instructed to carry out a drawing survey and come up with solutions.

The building is a wreck and is small. To demolish and rebuild was not economically viable. The solution was to make it work for say 10 -20 years by creating an extension for a kitchen and disabled WC and open up the inside and outside."

So are there any issues which may affect your progress?

"There is insufficient power in the building; the heating system leaked causing raising damp in a couple of areas; the artificial timber floor was warped and dangerous, when it was lifted, there was evidence of dry rot; Once of the cellars had been filled in and there other suffers from ground water. And the list could go on."

Have you found any original features?

"We found an original tile floor on 1/3 of the shop and there are a couple of original cast iron columns. I am intending we restore these.

Upstairs there was some original stain glass windows from the original chapel which we will remove and restore."

Wow!  They sound beautiful.  Are you going to involve any local artists in the project?

"The flak wall facing down Bearwood Road to Smethwick is blank and unattractive - we are planning to open it up be inserting a new shop front which will open up during the one or two days of sunshine and allow the cafe to spill out on our drive. One of the mums whose daughter comes to the chapel and the mum is an artist comes has designed a mural for this wall which we are considering."

So what happens next?

"At present we are carrying out the internal demolition with volunteers and preparing the site for construction.

The construction will be in two or three phases, with the first phase will be sorting the roof out, followed by the initial work tot he inside of the shop unit.

The extension at the back will then be built, followed by the new side shop front.

It is expected that this work will be carried out by two different contractors, a specialist shop fitter for the front of the building and a general contractor for the rest of the work.

The work upstairs to the flat will be carried out by volunteers under supervision. We are fortunate that we have a lot of qualified people internally in the chapel.

We will be going out to tender for the roof in the next few weeks."

What would you like to see the Community Cafe used for?

"The cafe will be used on a wide range for activities including having a good cuppy!

Advice is need on financial matters for those feeling the pinch - we are hoping to get people trained to deliver this - we are involved as a church withe Smethwick food bank.

I did work with planning aid before the government screwed it over (This my own personal view). There is a real need to help people understand the planning process and I can see this sort of advice being very useful.

We also have some trained counsellors as chapel members who may also get involved.

Our strapline is seeking to share the love of Jesus. We want to do this in away that makes a difference to our local community, if that means providing a good cup of coffee to advising on how to submit a planning application, or how to make the money stretch we will do it if we can. But we will always always pray for and with people if they want it."

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