A £1.1 million project to convert a former pub in Coventry city centre into a ground-breaking 5G digital space for the Belgrade Theatre will officially open in March.

Regeneration specialist Complex Development Projects (CDP) was given planning permission in spring last year to convert the premises of the un-used Jaguar Pub on Corporation Street into an immersive digital space for the nearby Belgrade Theatre with two apartments for visiting performers.

The legacy project from Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture involves creating a shared working space where visitors can borrow or plug in their own computers to access Wi-Fi to develop their own streaming content.

Up to 100 people will also be able to watch short films, stand-up comedy, poetry and music in the venue which is accessible to emerging creative talent and community organisations across Coventry.

The project is a partnership with Coventry City Council who have provided funding through the Cultural Capital Investment Fund as part of UK City of Culture. It has been delivered by CDP for the Belgrade Theatre on a pro bono basis to support the theatre. CDP acquired the long leasehold property in 2017 and have funded and delivered the conversion whilst the grant funding has been put in place.

Ian Harrabin, Managing Director of CDP, said the idea for the project was formed in the early days when Coventry was bidding for the UK City of Culture title.

He said: “The Belgrade was looking for ways to expand their engagement with young people and improve their sustainability and we came up with the idea of repurposing the much-loved Jaguar pub to keep it as a venue for the community. The project is a shining example of how businesses can help the city’s creative sector, pairing our regeneration expertise with the Belgrade’s imaginative proposals for this new use.”

Vera Ding, General Manager at the Belgrade Theatre, said: “The Jag will help us to reach new audiences, providing a safe space in the city centre for young people to come together to engage in creative digital programmes, events and workshops by making the most of 5G.

“The look and feel of the whole ground-breaking space is edgy, functional and industrial with some smaller touches to make it a welcoming space as well as making it accessible to all sections of the community.”

Cllr David Welsh, Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities at Coventry City Council, said: “This is a great example of the Council working in partnership to deliver a flagship project for the young people of the city. Many people will have fond memories of The Jag in its heyday as a pub and this imaginative reuse will keep it open to the community and give it a fresh purpose.

“It is really important that young people, have the chance to develop skills that will improve their job prospects and I’m really looking forward to seeing the project fully operational.”

Marion Plant, chair of the Productivity and Skills Business Group at Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) added: “The Government’s Getting Building Fund and Local Growth Fund both focused on improving infrastructure to boost the local economy, and re-purposing this much-loved building is a fantastic way to introduce it to a new generation but in a totally different way.

“Improving skills is a high priority for CWLEP in our Strategic Reset Framework and this digital space will help more young people develop their talents for their future careers and acquire the skills which employers need.”

The £1.1 million project has been funded by Coventry City Council’s Cultural Capital Investment Programme as part of the Belgrade Theatre Capital Project through Coventry City Council, Arts Council England and the Government’s Getting Building Fund and Local Growth Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), the Wolfson Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, Foyle Foundation, The 29th May 1961 Charitable Trust, and The Higgs Charity.