Millennium final score: two done, 12 to come

Most of the projects planned to mark the turn of the century are likely to open some time after the event, writes Keith Nuthall
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The Independent Online
Celebrations heralding the year 2000 may now be just 24 months away, but plans to mark the opening of 14 multi-million pound building projects will have to be put on hold.

An Independent on Sunday survey of these landmark schemes - funded in part by the Millennium Commission - has shown that only two will be completed by the end of the 20th century. Funding problems, late-running building work and demands for the highest design standards possible have put paid to any likelihood of them all opening in time for the turn of the century.

Those most delayed are the Millennium Point Technology and Learning Centre in central Birmingham and the National Space Centre in Leicester - neither of which will be open before the year 2001. Even the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, south-east London, which has long been touted as the centrepiece of Britain's millennial celebrations, now looks as if it is in danger of not being ready on time for New Year's Eve, 1999.

A Millennium Commission spokeswoman said: "We've never said that all the landmark projects have to be open by the year 2000 ... The whole point is to have quality projects that would take us into the next millennium."

The delays are also unlikely to concern the former Conservative heritage minister who launched the Millennium Commission, Peter Brooke. He maintained in Parliament that the millennial celebrations were taking place one year too early.

The Royal Observatory at Greenwich agreed: "The correct date to celebrate the end of the 20th century is New Year's Eve, 2000. We will then have completed 2,000 years."

Portsmouth Harbour

aCONSTRUCTION (left) under way. To be completed by summer 2000. Cost pounds 85m. Needs pounds 3m. Attempting to turn old naval bases into a new English riviera, this project has had its detractors.

The Portsmouth Society has complained about the involvement of the public in the choice of design of a 150-metre tower at Gunwharf Quay. Visitors will be asked to choose from a shortlist in late January and the Portsmouth Council will take their choice into account.

Much of the scheme will be built by 1999, including floodlit promenades, boulevards and walkways around the harbour, which is to be criss-crossed by lasers on special occasions. But the tower will not be built until the year 2000, which is also the opening date for two water jets.

Eden project, Cornwall

aCONSTRUCTION work begins 1998. To be completed by Easter 2000. Cost pounds 74.3m. Needs pounds 5m.

The Eden project - hailed as "the largest glasshouse in the world" - will house plants and trees normally grown in rainforests and the Mediterranean.

Perhaps the most spectacular of the projects, and a symbol of the Millennium Commission's bias towards environmentalism, it is estimated that 530,000 people will visit the Eden centre in the year after its launch.

A spokeswoman at the Royal Institute of British Architects said: "I think it's going to be the eighth Wonder of the World. The sheer scale of it: it's vast."

Architect David Kirkland said: "You could almost fit Wembley Stadium inside it."

Millennium Point

BIRMINGHAM. Site clearing has begun. Construction starts 1999. Opening September 2001. Cost pounds 111m. Needs pounds 16m.

Redeveloping derelict land in Digbeth, the landmark scheme is the latest in a long line of architectural initiatives to brighten up the heart of once-shabby Birmingham.

The complex will incorporate a science and technology museum, a faculty of the University of Central England, an Imax giant cinema screen and a University of the First Age (resource centre for schools).

New Technopolis

NORWICH. Construction starts in February 1999. Completion December 2000. Cost pounds 61m. Needs pounds 1.2m.

A fire destroyed historic documents and 100,000 books in Norwich Central Library in 1994. The technopolis is its replacement. The Millennium Library will become Norfolk's new central library with a specialist section on US airmen based in the county during the Second World War. It will have extensive computer records that can be accessed by branch libraries across Norfolk.

Bristol 2000

CONSTRUCTION under way. Official opening, spring 2000. Cost pounds 96m. Needs pounds 9.5m.

Wildscreen World, a virtual zoo, is a highlight of this science and cinema centre where video walls will carry images of penguins in icy South Georgia. Moving digital images panels on lift walls will give visitors the impression that they are rising through a rainforest canopy.

The zoo will concentrate on the 97 per cent of the world's species that "are smaller than a hen's egg" which means there will be a lot of insects on show.

Odyssey project

BELFAST. Start of construction planned for summer 1998. Opening, year 2000. Cost pounds 90m. Needs pounds 30m.

The redevelopment of abandoned docklands on the River Lagan could be another shot in the arm for a tourist industry revitalised by the peace process.

It will include a science centre, an Imax cinema, a shopping and entertainment complex and a 10,000-seat arena. Its scale should ensure support from both communities in the province: meeting criteria on promoting peace.

Lowry centre

SALFORD. Construction under way. Opening summer 2000. Cost pounds 127m. Combines a traditional art gallery with a virtual reality show.

L S Lowry works will be hung next to a centre with interactive video walls.

Visitors will wear badges that contain information on their tastes in art, a scanner will read these badges and appropriate images will be flashed on to the walls.

Businesses will also be able to use the centre for virtual reality.

Space Centre

LEICESTER. Construction starts February 1999. Opening early 2001. Cost pounds 46.5m.

Exhibits in the centre will include two satellites from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, a research centre, a large-screen Imax cinema and a planetarium. A delegation from the project is to visit China in January to discuss a proffered donation of a Long March II space rocket. The rockets are used by the Chinese to launch their satellites. They are 30-50 metres long and a model would have to be shipped to the UK.

Cardiff Stadium

THE Arms Park. Construction is under way. Completion June 1999. Cost pounds 114m.

Architectural purists shuddered on hearing that the new home of Welsh Rugby was to incorporate the old main stand. Even the Royal Fine Art Commission attacked the plan. The criticism is unlikely to bother fans who currently have to travel to Wembley to see their side play internationals.

The stadium will be the first in the UK to have a retractable roof. Capacity will increase from 52,000 to 73,000.

Tate Gallery, London

CONSTRUCTION under way. Most work finished by 1999, but opening May 2000. Cost pounds 130m. Needs pounds 25m.

Plans for exhibitions have already been laid by the Tate for its new gallery, a Fifties disused power station, now being converted into Britain's largest repository of modern art.

There will be few surprises about many of the sculptures and paintings because the new Bankside building will be used to display much of the main Tate Gallery exhibition, which is in storage.

Centre for life, Newcastle

CONSTRUCTION under way. Bio-science centre opens spring 1998; Genetics Institute, June 1999; and HELIX, Easter 2000. Cost pounds 54m. Needs pounds 2.8m.

When archaeologists investigated the site for a DNA study centre, their finds could not have been more appropriate - they found the bodies of 700 patients from an 18th-century hospital. A project spokesman said: "The bones are excellent material for research into DNA." The centre will include a permanent exhibition on genetics called HELIX, a bio-science centre for local businesses and Newcastle University's Genetics Institute.

Hampden Park, Glasgow

aCONSTRUCTION under way. Completion late spring 1999. Probable opening , autumn 1999. Cost pounds 51m. Hampden Park was opened in 1903 and has been a rather spartan Glaswegian affair. It is now being rebuilt with a National Museum of Football, hospitality suites and a lecture theatre. Its capacity will be 52,000 and ownership will remain with the tiny Division III side of Queen's Park, the oldest club in the Scottish League.

Millennium Seed Bank, Sussex

aCONSTRUCTION under way. Building to be completed by October 1999. Cost pounds 80m.

The Royal Botanic Gardens aims to collect seeds of all British flora by the end of the year 2000 and ten per cent of the world's flowering plants by the year 2010 - 25,000 species in all. They will be stored in freezers inside this research and exhibition centre, near Haywards Heath. Visitors will watch scientists at work, descending in glassed lifts to the vaults protecting the seeds. The bank will make its stocks available for research into the potential medical and industrial properties of plants that are disappearing in the wild.

The Earth Centre

DONCASTER. Construction under way. Phase one opens Easter 1999. Cost pounds 100m. Needs pounds 10m. The Earth Centre has been designed as an example of sustainable architecture. It has been built partly underground and uses the Roman system of underfloor ducts to help regulate in-door temperatures. One-litre flush WCs, waterless urinals and on-site treatment of sewage also help to establish its eco-credentials.

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