For years it has been a place of mystery at the heart of the city.
But now a decaying Victorian orphanage in the centre of Preston will open for a day of exclusive tours before it is transformed into new homes.
READ MORE: The history of St Joseph's Orphanage in Preston
The building which was once St Joseph’s Orphanage was closed 15 years ago but in the years since then it has become a regular victim to vandalism and trespassers.
Now a firm specialising in developing historic buildings is to redevelop the Grade II listed building.
Simon Linford, of Birmingham-based Czero Developments, said: “So many people have tried to do tours of the building illegally. We are quite keen to enable them to do tours legally.
“There are these heritage open days and we are planning to open the building up for a day for hard hat tours. We are just trying to work out which floors are safe to stand on at the moment.
“We are busily tidying up and clearing up so that people stop thinking it’s a playground because it’s dangerous.”
National architectural charity the Victorian Society included St Joseph’s Orphanage on its Top 10 Endangered Victorian buildings list in England and Wales in 2016.
Mr Linford hopes to have a planning application submitted to Preston City Council by Christmas with work to commence the following year. Although he says the development will be residential he was unable to confirm how many homes the redevelopment would bring.
READ MORE: URBAN EXPLORERS: Pictures reveal rarely seen rooms at St Joseph's in Preston
He said: “We have had discussions with planners about what we can do. It’s going to be a residential development bringing something history to the centre of Preston. There will be a mixed use of old buildings converted into apartments and new townhouses, possibly with roof gardens.
“The key is to save as much as we can, keeping the best bits of the building and converting them and get rid of the bad bits. We had a lot of false starts but now we think we have got a plan that’s going to work.
“Over the years a lot of people have looked to do something with this building but it requires specialists to know how to redevelop it.
“We are quite used to dealing with buildings which are worth next to nothing. It will be worth more than it cost to do when it’s done. We have been there this week and about 50 people came through into the court just because the gates are open.”
READ MORE: Discussions to take place after 'deliberate' fire at Preston's derelict St Joseph's Orphanage
Coun Peter Moss, cabinet member for planning and regulations at Preston City Council, said: “We have been having pre-planning application discussions with both the owner of St Joseph’s Orphanage and Czero Developments for some considerable time in order to find a positive solution for the site and its future use.
It’s great to see that they are being proactive with protecting and securing the site.
“St Joseph’s Orphanage has been vacant for a long time and we are looking forward to receiving their planning application later in the year.”
The former orphanage, which has been through various guises, including a hospital, has proved tantalising for those curious enough to want to take a risk and break in to explore its interior.
As well as a fire which broke out after it was started deliberately in June, a group of youngsters had to be rescued from the Theatre Street building last year when they found themselves trapped.
In April this year, urban explorer Dan Dixon, a former Walton-le-Dale student, further piqued local interest into the orphanage when he revealled creepy pictures of a morgue.
Speaking to the Post at the time he admitted the building was a danger zone.
“St Joseph’s is by far the most dangerous place I have been in,” he said.
“I found a tank that had fallen from the attic through three floors and landed in the basement - it is a really unstable building.”
Since the developers entered into the agreement with owners of the site, Mount Street Limited, a security guard has moved in order to discourage trespassers.
Mr Linford added: “It’s dangerous. You could walk on a floor and fall through a carpet. Especially when buildings are well known locally there’s a lot of interest in seeing what important buildings are like.”
The dates for the heritage open day tours are yet to be announced but it is expected to take place in September.