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East Finchley college forced to sell building as bank recalls £3.5m loan

PUBLISHED: 15:00 03 October 2011

The Institute Arts Centre will be sold to pay off its debts. Picture: Flickr

The Institute Arts Centre will be sold to pay off its debts. Picture: Flickr

Archant

A popular East Finchley adult education college is being forced to sell one of its buildings after the bank called in its £3.5million loan.

The Institute has been running in the red for years, but the bank’s patience has finally run out. It has told the college it must repay its debts by July 2012.

Institute chief executive Joy Solomon said the only way the college could pay back its multi-million pound loan is to sell off the Arts Centre in Beaumont Close, East Finchley.

But she hopes the Institute will be able to stay in its Beaumont Close premises, paying rent to a new owner.

She said: “I’m talking to one or two investors about staying in the Arts Centre and becoming partners and paying off the loan to the bank. It’s up for sale but ideally not for us to leave.

“I’m not blaming the bank, but circumstances for them are just disastrous and they’re just pulling in as many of their assets as they can. They have given me time to get it ship-shape and now they’re saying ‘Come on we want our money back’.

“I don’t think we will have to move, but the second option is we sell off the building and have to move out. I’m certain there are people who want to take it over such as schools but we want to stay put.

“We’re looking for sustainability and longevity and frankly I’m tired of constantly trying to renegotiate our loan and I’m looking to the future.”

The Arts Centre was last valued at £10.4million in 2008, but Mrs Solomon anticipates selling the building for less. She hopes the new owner might consider suspending rent for two years so the Institute could get back in the black.

In 2005 the Institute was paid £9million to leave its home in Hampstead Garden Suburb, dating back to 1909.

But new premises were not immediately available and the college was forced to pay out for make-shift solutions.

The Institute has been running at a loss for years, but Mrs Solomon believes the college will break even within two years of selling the Arts Centre.

East Finchley Cllr Alison Moore said: “The Institute has a long and proud history and I think it has done tremendous things, particularly over recent years broadening its range of classes.

“It would be very sad to see it losing ground.”

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