Transforming a building more than 230 years old was never going to be an easy task.
So it’s little surprise that the multi-million pound project to turn the Piece Hall into the Milan of the North has overrun by 18 months.
Challenges along the way were only to be expected and it didn’t help when an ancient burial ground was discovered. Asbestos was also found in two areas as the work neared completion and unsuitable dry-stone wall foundations were unearthed.
The Piece Hall was originally built in 1779 as a Cloth Hall for the trading of ‘pieces’ of cloth. Astonishingly, for such an enormous building created at vast expense it only opened for two hours of trading every Saturday from noon to 2pm.
When finished The Piece Hall will include shops, cafés, bars, office space, restaurants, conference facilities, meeting rooms and a landscaped courtyard.
The idea is to create a 21st century town square complete with a commitment to feature events and festivals all year round.
When it opened on 1 January 1779 there were 315 separate rooms arranged around a vast, central open courtyard.
Originally businessmen flocked to Halifax to buy their cloth here. However, in the following century, Halifax was caught out by the movement of the textile trade which moved down the road to Bradford.
Instead it became a wholesale fruit and vegetable market complete with outlandish, crowd-pleasing stunts.
For example, in 1861 a world-famous tightrope walker Charles Blondin, who had recently crossed the Niagara Falls, walked along cables stretched from its cables to the delight of the watching crowds below.
In 1976 the Piece Hall was restored at great expense. There were market stalls dotted across the courtyard and a variety of shops used some of the 315 rooms on the building’s three levels, or galleries.
However, in recent years the Hall has become decidedly down-at-heel and ripe for a renaissance. Whether it fulfils its potential as a Milan of the North remains to be seen.
Its prospects can only be helped though by a huge splurge in spending by Calderdale Council in the town centre area which has seen the runaway success of the £50m Broad Street development while the nearby Grade II* listed Square Chapel is also set for a significant transformation.
In addition a new £9.5 million Central Library and Archive is being built next to the Piece Hall and the Calderdale Industrial Museum, next door to the Hall is set to reopen later this year.