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Multi-million pound Jewish centre on hold

PUBLISHED: 16:18 25 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:15 07 September 2010

The Jewish Community Centre has made a dramatic U-turn over its plans to set up its multi-million pound headquarters in Finchley Road. As recently as last month the JCC, which currently holds events in rented venues, was set on plans to build an auditoriu

The Jewish Community Centre has made a dramatic U-turn over its plans to set up its multi-million pound headquarters in Finchley Road.

As recently as last month the JCC, which currently holds events in rented venues, was set on plans to build an auditorium, gym and swimming pool on the site of the former Alan Day Mercedes showroom by 2011.

The project had been criticised by journalist Jonathan Freedland who argued that a permanent headquarters would separate its events from mainstream culture and put them "in a separate box marked Jewish".

Other critics said there was no need for the centre, given its proximity to the London Jewish Cultural Centre (LJCC) in North End Road.

But now the JCC has scrapped the project.

"We are not going to go ahead with our building as planned for the Finchley Road site," said chief executive Nick Viner.

"We are fully committed to the long-term aim of a building but essentially because of the economic climate and with building costs going up significantly it makes more sense to preserve the funds we have and not go into the fundraising campaign we had planned.

"We are going to explore some options and see whether we can use the site for either a short-term building or a long-term smaller development.

"Some fantastic work has been done and we have asked our architect to look at these other options. We feel it is important to be realistic and we will be focusing on the events we have been doing, reaching out to more people across the community.

"We will also continue with our work in partnership with other organisations."

Mr Freedland, who often works with the JCC, was sorry to hear the latest twist in the tale.

"I share the JCC's sadness that they've had to take this decision in this way," he said. "If they had chosen - as a matter of strategy - to get by without a building, that would have been one thing.

"But to be forced into a decision because of economic pressure is nothing to celebrate."

In December last year the JCC had to evict a band of squatters from the former showroom before the site could be surveyed.

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