One of the North East’s most important historic buildings is set to be brought spectacularly back to life, with plans revealed to transform it into a vibrant new business hub.
The Grade II listed River Wear Commissioners Building, which stands on the corner of Sunderland’s St Thomas Street, is set for £3m of improvements to create a stunning modern workspace – with room for up to 48 new businesses - after Sunderland City Council struck a deal with its new owner, the region’s fastest growing provider of prestige working environments.
The sale is the latest in a line of positive announcements from the City Council, as it moves forward with a £0.5bn city centre investment programme, that will bring more people into the area to live, visit and work.
New owner of the 1900s building, Adavo Workspace, has developed Wallsend Town Hall in North Tyneside and The Clervaux Exchange in Jarrow, and is in the process of converting another property in Blyth. The River Wear Commissioners Building is the fourth building that the firm will transform, as it builds a portfolio of listed buildings to provide inspirational and flexible serviced environments in which to do business.
Mark Black, chief executive at Adavo Workspace, said: “I’m really passionate about the North East and want to create spaces that help new businesses launch and grow, while bringing back to life character-buildings that create a really unique work environment.
“To find a building like the Commissioners Building, which is unsurpassed in terms of its world-class architectural features and its fantastic city-centre location, was just absolutely incredible and we’re excited to bring it back into use and hopefully secure the future of this 100+ year old building for the next century.”
The company has developed a sensitive restoration plan for the listed building that will see it modernised into a state-of-the-art workspace, perfect for a range of small businesses in fields as broad as finance, marketing and IT. The company expects that it will welcome up to 200 new jobs to the city and hopes to open its doors by the end of 2020.
“We want this to be a place that supports business growth. And it is an important step in our own journey as a business, as we look to raise finance that will allow us to grow our footprint beyond our four centres, to create 30 business bases in the region and in the long-term, we plan to expand across the UK, with each property we add a sympathetically reimagined listed building,” said Mr Black.
The centrally-located property, which was built in 1907, features oak panelling, ornate wood carvings, and granite, marble and sandstone features. Once work is complete to bring it into modern usage, it will house serviced office suites ranging from £125 per desk. There will also be a co-working coffee house on site, as well as conferencing and event spaces.
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Adavo to Sunderland, and it’s great to see yet-another private sector partner recognising the vast potential that exists here, as we move forward with a transformative vision for the city centre.
“We know that the city centre has to become an economic driver to help build the vibrant, dynamic, healthy city we are determined to create, and investment like this – that will bring yet more jobs and wealth to Sunderland is a huge vote of confidence in our work as a council. We look forward to seeing Adavo’s plans for the building emerge and this spectacular old building being brought back to life.”
The River Wear Commissioners Building was erected on the site of Sunderland’s old post office on the corner of John Street and St Thomas Street, has three storeys plus a basement and is just five minutes on foot from both The Bridges Shopping Centre and Sunderland train station.
The modern Port of Sunderland owes its existence to the River Wear Commission and Board of Commissioners (which were formed in 1717 to preside over the growing prosperity of Sunderland as a port) and a succession of eminent engineers, who transformed the harbour from its natural state by the construction of a series of major civil engineering works that created the harbour into the estate it is now.
North East commercial property specialist Naylors agreed the deal, having supported Adavo to find an historic building that could be brought back to life, after the 10-year old company earmarked Sunderland as a place it would like to invest in.
James Fletcher, commercial agency surveyor at Naylors added: “This building is both striking and culturally important, so it’s a great addition to Adavo’s expanding portfolio. Its previous projects of a similar scale have created thriving regional workspaces in stunning landmark buildings that are more than 90 per cent let.
“So, we're excited to have had a hand in helping start a new chapter for a property so significant to the city’s maritime history, that will create jobs and contribute towards Sunderland’s ongoing growth.”