JCC abandons plans for its new building

Plans for the first American-style Jewish community centre in the heart of London have been shelved, a decision blamed by its backers on the worsening economic climate.

The board of the Jewish Community Centre for London (JCC) has announced it is putting on hold a scheme to develop an 80,000-square-foot former car showroom in Finchley Road, Swiss Cottage, bought just over a year-and-a-half ago.

Nick Viner, JCC chief executive, said the decision had been “driven entirely by the economic climate. We were concerned at the timing of a major capital project.”

The JCC scheme was launched nearly five years ago by Dame Vivien Duffield, who believed it could “transform the British Jewish community”.

Over the past year, plans were in the process of being drawn up for a multi-purpose complex housing arts, sports and leisure facilities, as well as a library, nursery and restaurants. Costing tens of millions of pounds, it would have required the largest fundraising campaign for a Jewish building in the UK.

For the past three-and-a-half years, the JCC has been running events in venues across the capital.

But Mr Viner said that the board stood by the vision of eventually having a physical home.

“We can go much further with a building where people can come and meet and spend time with other people.”

He added that its clientele included those who “said they had never done anything Jewish before and never went inside a synagogue. We believe we are reaching new audiences.”

In the meantime, architects have been asked to “explore other options” including using part of the current Finchley Road site for activities.

Dame Vivien said: “The JCC is here to stay and my personal and financial commitment to it is as strong as ever. I passionately believe that the JCC has already proved that it has a significant contribution to make to Jewish life in London.

“We will ensure that this continues to be the case in the future.”

    Last updated: 5:28pm, July 24 2008