One of Preston’s historic jewels could finally be rescued after standing empty and forlorn for more than a decade.
Architects have been called in to advise on the redevelopment of the crumbling St Joseph’s Orphanage and Mount Street Hospital.
The city council has appointed Manchester-based Buttress to work with owner David Gornall on a scheme to convert the Victorian property into swish city centre apartments.
The authority has been given £165,000 by the Townscape Heritage Initiative to spend on stimulating interest in developing the Winckley Square area.
While it still does not guarantee the building will be saved, a council spokesman said: “This is the first time we have actively been able to take a more proactive approach.
“We haven’t been able to do that before. But it is about working with the owner to try and make it an attractive development.”
The property was first opened as a Roman Catholic girls orphanage in 1877. It was extended and also became a hospital for the sick poor.
It housed wounded troops during both world wars and in 1961 its most famous patient, film star George Formby, died there following a heart attack.
It closed as a hospital in 1982 and later became a care home before shutting its doors for the last time in 2003.
The Grade 2 Listed building is one of six suggested sites in the Preston Housing Zone which could deliver more than 700 new homes over the next five years. It is estimated St Joseph’s/Mount Street could provide around 80 of those, along with a further 232 in nearby Winckley Square.
Conservationists have been warning for years that time is running out to save the orphanage and hospital as it crumbles into ruin.