THE Tower Hamlets Library Service is set for a radical 20m overhaul, with seven new state-of- the-art centres intended to revolutionise the library sector.
Called Idea Stores, the centres will combine traditional library services with adult and further education facilities, as well as arts, cultural and retailing activities. The centres will work in partnership with supermarket chains, which are already involved in talks with Tower Hamlets Council.
Tower Hamlets council leader Julia Mainwaring says: “Our aim is to take libraries… and make them a beacon of knowledge, fun and life-long learning at high-profile sites. They will also be placed where young and old can relax in a coffee bar, take a class or watch a live performance.”
The flagship centre will be a 7.5m Whitechapel site due for completion by 2001. It is expected to feature a Sainsbury’s store. Six other venues will be built by 2004, in areas including Bow (with Safeway), the Isle of Dogs (Asda) and Bethnal Green (Tesco).
Mike Howes, Tower Hamlets head of strategy and programmes for the Customer Services Directorate, says the borough is looking for design groups and architects for the next stage of the project.
“Bisset Adams and Wintersgill and Faulkner were both appointed to draw up an outline of what the building might look like and work on some branding features to be common for the folio of stores,” he says.
Under European Community legislation, Tower Hamlets is required to open the competition to tender, as fees for the Whitechapel store are estimated at 750 000, exceeding the EC project limit of 100 000.
“An ad will go in the EC’s Official Journal in the next couple of weeks. Someone will probably be appointed by mid-September to do a detailed design by April 2000, before starting on-site in August 2000,” adds Howes.
The store is due for completion 12 months later.