Plans for gigantic North East digital skyscraper put 'under review' amid pandemic fears
Ambitious plans to build the biggest skyscraper in the North East on Teesside are “under review”.
The 19-storey digital Boho X office building would be the highest between Leeds and Glasgow if it comes to fruition.
Work on the 260ft tower at Middlehaven was set to start this summer, with plans including a helipad and wider development.
The wider digital city vision includes two residential towers, a digital campus, a 750-seat indoor amphitheatre beneath a glass atrium and a 400-seat outdoor amphitheatre to host events such as lectures, cultural events and entertainment.
Work on the nearby Boho 8 digital campus began last week to offer modular units for firms.
But its construction is now being put back amid a fresh assessment of the plan in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston told the latest executive council meeting how the £30million digital office project was still on track for completion in 2022 but its “size and shape” were being looked at again.
Mr Preston said: “We are undoubtedly putting up a magnificent building – and I am still certain there will be demand for offices like this in Middlesbrough and across the world.
“But with covid there is some uncertainty about what kind of offices and how much demand there is so we are reviewing the design of the building.
“We will deliver on the same date within two years of today – but exactly what shape and design the development will be is currently under review.
“A potential goal is to spend less money on the building to have something equally striking, but to free up some capital for other things.”
He added: “We need to keep our economy going in Middlesbrough so every new project that we can kick off that creates construction jobs, energy and dynamism in the heart of town is really valuable.
“If we can save money and launch another project with some of the savings that would be a great thing.”
The independent mayor told leaders he would release the findings from the review in the coming weeks.
Blueprints for the tower were due to go before Middlesbrough Council’s planning committee in June before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Council reports have confirmed the design of Boho X was now “under review”.
The report added: “This is expected to delay the commencement of construction works resulting in £2.5m being transferred to 2022/23 (budgets).”
Mr Preston has hailed the tower as a chance to change wider perceptions of Middlesbrough and make the town the UK’s digital city as part of a wider £250m vision for the town.
Middlesbrough’s digital sector already adds about £200m a year to the town’s economy and employs about 1,000 people.
But the digital skyscraper concept has not been without his critics.
Late last year, Cllr Mick Saunders feared that the trio of towers may become a “white elephant”.
Labour group leader Cllr Matt Storey shared fresh reservations about the skyscraper idea amid the ongoing review.
The opposition leader said: “It’s difficult to say too much at this stage as they’re looking at the designs again – but my view is there was a perfectly sensible, creative and forward thinking design the previous Labour council proposed."