The City of Lincoln Council has discredited reports that the historic Lawn complex in the city was sold for less than a quarter of its asking price while bids of double the building’s value were ignored.
Arguments backing the sale of the 19th century building surfaced following reports that a sale was agreed at just £250,000, despite a £1 million price tag.
The historic Lawn complex on Union Road went on sale for a second time in March 2014 for £1 million.
It was sold by the council to RW Stokes and Sons in August 2016, one of four bidders.
The City of Lincoln Council added that no offers of £2 million for the site had been submitted previously, despite claims made.
The council confirmed on Tuesday, March 14 that a £250,000 cash sum had been arranged as part of the sale agreement with Stokes.
It argued however that the additional commitment of an estimated £150,000 car park extension, paid for by the new owners, and the associated income of around £600,000 generated for the council over 20 years would bring the total value of the sale closer to £1,000,000.
Stokes’ £2 million investment plans for the site include the creation of a new business headquarters, cafe, coffee roasters, restaurant, offices and theatre.
The pay and display car park on site has also been extended as part of the works, creating an additional 100 spaces.
The council has said that the car park, which was not left to the council in other bids for the site, would generate an estimated £30,000 per year.
City of Lincoln Council leader Councillor Ric Metcalfe said: “We put The Lawn up for sale to ensure investment could be made to bring the historic site back into use.
“It is an iconic, Grade-II listed building situated in a significant area for tourism in the city.
“The Stokes plan to create an operational outlet for its coffee business with a roastery, café, barista training and wholesale trading, along with a high quality restaurant and 100 space new car parking spaces was chosen as the successful bidder.
“Their plan is innovative and very fitting given the heritage of the building and will help turn the Lawn complex into a great visitor and tourist attraction – bringing additional tourist income into the city and providing much needed extra parking for uphill Lincoln.
“As well as the sale price, Stokes has also met the cost of building the new public car park on the upper part of the west lawn and all of the income from this comes directly to the city council, for us to put back into vital services.
“I am pleased we have been able to sell the Lawn to a long established local business whose plans for the building will help grow the local economy and add to the fantastic offer already available in uphill Lincoln. Stokes will ensure the building becomes sustainable and that the whole complex can, once again, be enjoyed by the public.”
Building work has already begun on site, which operated 200 years ago as a ‘lunatic asylum’.
Nick Peel, managing director of Stokes Tea & Coffee said: “Stokes invested in The Lawn site as it offers a fantastic opportunity to grow our company within Lincoln, which itself has seen much regeneration and development over recent years.
“Our £2m investment will not only see Stokes increase its market share within the tea and coffee industry, but also create jobs and bring more revenue into the local area.
“Construction to convert our new head office is well under way, with the move of the head office and roastary set to take place soon, followed by the opening of the new café. This will feature a specially designed viewing gallery to allow the public to watch the coffee making process, and learn more about the history of the business. In addition, it will provide new office space for other local companies, a restaurant, shops, events space and even a theatre.
“Stokes has played an important role in Lincoln for more than a century, and remaining in the city has always been a priority. We pride ourselves on traditional values, and being instrumental to the development of The Lawn reflects our ambitions to continue to support our community.
“Extending our offering within Lincoln will benefit local people through the creation of jobs, and provide them with a wonderful new venue to enjoy. Having a new attraction for tourists also means our local economy will benefit, which subsequently will encourage further interest from investors to continually enhance our beautiful city.
“We are delighted with the purchase of The Lawn, and extremely excited for when our plans come to fruition and people are able to enjoy the Stokes experience within such an iconic building.”