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Dundee business in plan to buy building and ‘donate’ it community

John McGee and Derek Mawhinney from Omnis properties.
John McGee and Derek Mawhinney from Omnis properties.

A Dundee property company is planning to buy a dormant council building with the aim of turning it into a community hub.

Omnis properties is looking to help regenerate communities in Dundee as they aim to transform abandoned Wolseley Street Hall — near Dens Road — into a community space again.

Wolseley Street Hall, currently owned by Dundee City Council, was previously used as a community hall but has been unused for at least three years.

Wolseley Street Hall near Dens Road.

Dundee born Derek Mawhinney, director of Omnis properties, is hoping to invest in his city as he says Wolseley Street Hall is just one of a number of community projects lined up for the company.

The council say the building has received a lot of interest and they are still currently processing applications.

Derek said: “We’re doing a lot of regeneration in the area and I think it’s good to look at areas where we can give back to the community as well.

“Wolsey Hall came up as a potential community hub where we can have inter-generational activities and just essentially give something back to the community.”

Hall will be ‘donation’ to community

Derek, who recently had one of his properties, Dunsinane House, covered in graffiti by artists to inspire “change” in Dundee, has highlighted there will be no financial gain in the project for his business.

“It’s not anything that we’re going to make any money out of. It will be something that’s more of a donation than anything else,” he said.

“As much as we’re going through a massive change in Dundee — especially with all the money that’s getting thrown into the waterfront — when I looked into our investment plans for 2021 going forward, I always saw there were a lot of areas in which we could help with redevelopment and regeneration.

Derek Mawhinney and John McGee of Omnis properties outside Wolseley Street Hall.

“Obviously with being a Dundee lad as well, I knew a lot of areas where people that I know and people that I loved were affected by the lack of facilities or lack of support.

“So we’re really hoping that we can aid that regeneration and just make Dundee that little bit better.”

Hopes to open by Spring if successful

Derek hopes that if their application to purchase the premise is successful they can immediately start the redevelopment process and open to the public by spring next year.

He added: “We’ve been in talks with councillor Lynne Short and the Stobswell community group who have been looking for a space for quite a while and we’re hoping that we can work with them and aid what they’re trying to do in the area.

“I think if we can invest money back in, we could create something that is really good for the city.”

‘Get people out of their houses’

John McGee, who works in regeneration and redevelopment at Omnis properties, has worked closely with Derek on various projects where they have been identifying new purposes for redundant properties around Dundee.

He said: “We’ve been looking at the space [Wolseley Street Hall] for a while and how we can improve social well-being, mental health and physical health.

Wolseley Street Hall in Dundee.

“We’ve been looking at how we can reuse the space to basically get people out of their houses.

“It’s not a commercial project but this is something that we feel will really help the neighbourhood from where it sits at the moment.

“We’re looking at this being something that’s open 52 weeks a year, seven days a week and it’ll really engage with communities.”

‘Putting back into the community again’

“We’ve put a feasibility paper together and we’re waiting for a decision from the council.

“When funding is cut it’s very hard for councils and they get criticised with people saying ‘they just let it go’.

“They don’t actually have the time or infrastructure to maintain them and make them sustainable so it’s good for businesses to want to do that and certainly Derek has that ethos for putting back into the community again.”

John, who is also a lifetime ambassador for education at West Lothian College, hopes to involve local communities in the redevelopment of the hall by getting students from Dundee and Angus College to help with construction and design.

Lifetime ambassador for education, John McGee and Director of Omnis properties, Derek Mawhinney.

He said: “Dundee and Angus is a fantastic college in the region and we would work with them to help us kind of brand it so it’ll become a live project for them too.

“So, rather than just handing the building over to the community, we want the community to be part of what we’re doing.

“I think any business really should be looking at how they can put something back into their communities again, there’s lots of projects we’re working on that will support people, whether it’s housing, education or tourism.”

Councillor says project would be ‘game changer’

Maryfield ward councillor Lynne Short believes the project is something needed by the community in her ward.

She said: “The most recent Fairness Report from DCC indicated that the area where this building is situated should be given extra support due to high levels of anti-social behaviour, poor quality private sector housing and persistent low level criminal behaviours.

Maryfield Ward Councillor Lynne Short.

“Having a building situated in the heart of the community would help to deliver many of the outcomes, through partners, that are the vision for those living there and the ambitions of those that want to see positive outcomes across all of the Maryfield Ward.

“Having this opportunity would be a game changer and very much help our city plan objectives.”

A Dundee City Council spokesperson said: “We have received a number of applications for this property and a decision will be made in due course.”

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