Colonnade House, in Warwick Street, which previously housed Worthing CVS and the West Sussex Information Shop, could be transformed into a retail, office and workshop space to support new entrepreneurs, should Worthing Borough Council succeed in gaining funding.
The proposal was welcomed by chief executive of Worthing and Adur Chamber of Commerce, Tina Tilley, who said there was high demand for such space.
She said: “For the past eight years, the chamber has been supporting the need to provide flexible work space for startups.
“This could be a great opportunity to bring the creative sector together and have a retail area in a prime position of town.”
A report presented to the Joint Strategic Committee last Tuesday claimed Worthing had the lowest rate of businesses surviving for three years, compared with the rest of West Sussex.
It states the ‘primary obstacle’ to such businesses is a lack of flexible space – something the Colonnade House project would address.
The council’s regeneration manager, Claire Mangan, said similar facilities in other areas, such as Basepoint in Shoreham, were fully subscribed, along with a long waiting list for creative studios on the seafront.
She said: “The project seeks to establish a creative hub providing first step arts, design, digital and associated professional services, much needed studio and retail spaces that can both create and sustain new jobs in the creative and digital industries.
“The project is an ideal use of the building. It is in a visible location at the edge of the main shopping area.
“The exhibition space will attract a high level of footfall to this part of the town centre, as well as presenting an attractive frontage to visitors approaching the town from the east.”
Town centre manager Sharon Clarke said the proposal would be welcomed but noted the space may not be large enough to accommodate a significant amount of startups.
She said: “Worthing has a thriving creative sector but it needs to be nurtured to ensure the talent stays in Worthing.
“Colonnade House offers a great opportunity to improve the look of a council-owned building and provide a retail offer that is unique and appealing to visitors.
“The space is quite small, therefore the impact it has will be limited. However, I do support a cautious approach to ensure that the space will be fully utilised and can become self-sustaining in the future.”
The council will now carry out a survey on the building and plan to submit the stage one application to the Coastal Communities Fund by the end of the month.
A similar project was planned for the first floor of the Guildbourne Centre, but the bid was shelved because of the timescale and survey information required.