One of the most significant buildings that will rise from the ground in Sunderland is taking shape as the city remains locked down.
Work on City Hall, which will stand on the new Riverside Sunderland urban quarter, is back on track, with Sunderland-based construction business Bowmer + Kirkland now on site to build the 190,000 sq ft civic hub.
The global pandemic and the lockdown that began in March meant that many projects – including City Hall – had ground to a halt, but updated guidelines issued by Government now mean there is an allowance for circumstances where 2m social distancing might not be possible on construction sites. The change to guidance has seen many of the sector’s businesses return to work.
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We are pleased to see work get back underway on City Hall, a place that will transform the way we are able to support our residents when it opens its doors next year.
“The safety of people working in the city is our number one priority, so we have sought assurances from Bowmer + Kirkland that they are able to proceed with this project in a way that keeps people safe. We are pleased they are in a position to protect the team on-site, and move forward with the construction of this important building that will bring together a range of services to deliver integrated, resident-focused support to our communities.”
City Hall, designed by award winning architect Faulkner Brown, is due for completion in Autumn 2021, and is twice the size of The Beam, the first building to be constructed on the Riverside Sunderland site. City Hall is one of three buildings funded by Legal & General, which announced a £100m investment in the city in November last year.
The construction project – which was awarded to Bowmer + Kirkland last year - creates a number of benefits for local residents and companies as part of the council's community wealth building programme. It also creates a number of full time and apprenticeship opportunities for local Sunderland residents, with a commitment that £29m will be spent in local supply chains and £9m with local SMEs.
Paul Anderson, Project Manager at Bowmer + Kirkland, said: “We are pleased to be back on site and able to progress with this important building for Sunderland and work is moving at pace.
“Our priority at all times is the safety and wellbeing of our team, and we are moving forward in a way that keeps them safe and protected.”
City Hall is one of a number of significant projects underway in the city centre. It follows the completion of The Beam, which is now home to online grocer Ocado, as well as two other growing businesses. And City Hall will be followed by two more offices on the Riverside Sunderland site – where the Vaux Brewery once stood – after Legal & General confirmed £100m investment in the city.
Elsewhere in the city centre, a 450-seater auditorium is taking shape; plans are afoot to transform the former Gilbridge Police Station; a new hotel is set to rise from the ground on Keel Square; and old buildings including the Elephant Tearooms, Mackie’s Corner and the River Wear Commissioner’s Building are set to get a new lease of life. The seaside is also seeing waves of investment, with a new inn with rooms and the STACK Seaburn, a family-focused leisure venue, also progressing.