OWNERS of Liverpool's bow-fronted Irish Centre are planning to re-open its doors in time for St Patrick's Day next year.
The Mount Pleasant building (pictured), which has been empty for nearly a decade, is to receive a full makeover to turn it into a multi-purpose venue that will continue to welcome the city's Irish community.
New Dimensions Properties, which took over the 99-year lease on the Grade II-listed Georgian assembly rooms in autumn 2000, is now looking for public funding to cover a quarter of the £2m redevelopment costs.
The company will pay the rest of the sum out of its own finances.
Managing director Abdul Rauf Shaik, said: "The building has just been left to decay.
"We want to return the building for the purpose of the Irish community."
The Manchester-based firm's financial advisers are currently drawing up funding plans for the building, constructed in 1816 as the Wellington Rooms.
"We hope to re-open before St Patrick's Day next year." Designed by architect Edmund Aitken, the Wellington Rooms housed the exclusive gentleman's club of Liverpool's merchants who mostly lived in Rodney Street and Faulkner Square.
One of the main events of the year was the Steeplechase Ball, when the Grand National winner was led around the ballroom with flannelled hooves.
In the 1960s, a group from Liverpool's Irish community took over the building. However, it was eventually forced to shut in the 1990s due to funding problems.
The plans were last night welcomed by Tommy Walsh, current chairman of the St Michaels Irish Centre, Kensington, who ran the Wellington Rooms for 30 years.
He said: "I am absolutely overjoyed that the building will be used again.
"I will watch it with great interest."