Tenants have already signed up for a new multi-million pound business centre for creative industries in Hartlepool.
Work on the refurbishment and extension of the former Post Office (GPO) building in Whitby Street for business start-ups is due to be completed by the end of February and open in March.
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, hailed The BIS (Business, Innovation and Skills) centre as unique in the region.
He said: “Even already we have got some tenants lined up ready for March.
“We have done walk arounds with potential students and businesses about whether they want to go in, and we’ve had discussions around photography companies who are interested.
“There will be no other facility like that in the whole of the north region.
“It will be a flagship for Hartlepool that we are investing in creative industries.” The £3m-4m conversion has been funded by the Tees Valley Combined Authority and will be run by Hartlepool Borough Council.
It will be open to new and existing creative sector businesses, including graduates of the Northern School of Art.
The centre will include more than 20 studio units in a mix of workshops and office space, meeting and conference rooms, social space, and shower and changing facilities and disabled access.
Coun Akers-Belcher said the design of the building matches state-of-the-art facilities with Hartlepool’s heritage.
He added it will be the only building of its type and size outside of Leeds or Manchester that nurtures young, creative businesses and help prevent those educated here moving out of town.
Coun Akers-Belcher said: “We are creating an environment to keep people in Hartlepool who are educated in Hartlepool and they will have first class facilities.
“We have got so many businesses where they flourish, but they get educated here in the Tees Valley then we have this leakage. They go somewhere else.
“It will be a first for us in the Tees Valley.”
Chief executive of the council Gill Alexander added: “It is going to be a great venue that will really put Hartlepool on the map in terms of being a centre for new and emerging creative industries.”