Work on a state-of-the-art performing arts facility for students of CAPA College has officially begun.
The new building, on Mulberry Way, will provide a permanent home for 500 performing arts students.
The official first dig took place on Friday afternoon, with staff, students and alumni invited to attend the ground breaking event.
In a statement, the college said the event was a “monumental day” and “is the culmination of years of hard campaigning”.
The building, which will include drama and singing studios, a public cafe and a 150-seat theatre, is expected to open for the start of the academic year in September 2020.
Strategic Director Claire Nicholson and Artistic Director Eddie Copp, joint founders of the college, said: “Today is an exciting milestone for all CAPA College staff, students and alumni.
“The new college will be a testament to all their hard work and dedication.
“We are so thrilled to get the building underway and can’t wait to move in!”
They were joined at the first dig by current and former students, including Emily Mae Walker, who is currently in rehearsals for the UK premiere of Brooklyn The Musical.
The 4,550 metre square building will be located on Mulberry Way, close to Westgate railway station, and will comprise of three floors, as well as an outdoor amphitheatre.
The college have previously said that they want to become a flagship for arts education in the North, and promise to offer “some of the best performance spaces, studios and technical facilities outside London”.
Once the college is open, they hope to become a hive of local activity, offering public classes, professional performances and showcases.
In their application, architects Race Cottam Associates describe the planned site as “a gateway building to Wakefield”.
The college will be the first project delivered by contractors Clugston Construction under the Department for Education-funded Education and Skills Funding Agency framework.
Mary Creagh, MP for Wakefield, said: “I was delighted to help keep CAPA College in Wakefield, and to press government for £8m for this new campus which will be a landmark building at the heart of our city.
“I wish the team the best of luck and look forward to their next production.”
'No downside' to college building in city
The start of work at the site is a major step for the college, who currently operate out of rented facilities.
The city’s first Department for Education funded free school, CAPA (Creative and Performing Arts) College provides full-time training for students aged 16-19 who wish to pursue a career in dance, drama, musical theatre or production.
The college first secured the land at Mulberry Way in 2017, shortly after they had been forced to close their doors at a previous site.
Although the land had previously been earmarked for residential development, plans for the college were unanimously approved at a meeting of Wakefield Council’s Planning and Highways Committee in April.
Councillors raised concerns about the impact the college would have on traffic, as well as the choice of black for the exterior cladding, but ultimately agreed that the college would be a positive addition to the city centre.
Councillor Glenn Burton said: “In terms of usage, we would be hard pressed to find a better use for this. I just can’t see any downside to it.”
It was also suggested that a restriction on the outdoor amphitheatre, which limits the hours of use to weekdays, could be lifted at a later date.
Councillor Alan Wassell said: “We need footfall in Wakefield and weekends are as good a time as any to get footfall, especially if it’s young people.”