A distinctive Sunderland building is set to be transformed into a busy business hub after a North East developer won a competitive bid-process to buy it.
Property investment and development group, The Hanro Group, has agreed outline terms with Sunderland City Council to buy the former Gilbridge Police Station, which stands close to the city’s Keel Square and the fast-changing Riverside Sunderland development.
The 3,000 sq m building has been earmarked for development since Northumbria Police closed its doors in 2015 and is now set to be converted into office space, with £3m of committed investment from Newcastle-based Hanro. The decision to sell the building to Hanro was signed off by Sunderland’s Cabinet, who met this afternoon [Tuesday, February 11]
The expiration of an 18-month exclusivity deal signed by Sunderland City Council and another Newcastle developer last year opened the door for fresh interest and a number of proposals were received, with Hanro coming out on top.
As part of its proposal, Hanro submitted detailed plans for the building that will see it converted into modern flexible office spaces, in suites ranging from 45 to 200 sq m. It will undergo a complete refurbishment internally and externally to transform the ‘brutalist’ concrete-clad building into a modern flexible working environment with attractive common areas. The range of suites will seek to attract SME occupiers.
Adam Serfontein, managing director of The Hanro Group which has invested in excess of £20m, in Sunderland over the last 3 years, including the development of retail space in Trimdon Street - said they are delighted to be bringing the former police station back to life.
He said: “The building is rather iconic and its prime position, opposite the Riverside Sunderland development, means that there is a great opportunity to complement the offer of this emerging location by adding flexible suites in an attractive “hub” environment. Our ambition is to provide a facility to attract growth business and foster the SME sector”.
Laura Lloyd, who has recently joined the Hanro team, added: “We have exciting plans that will see it reimagined, both internally and externally, and that will attract more businesses to the city centre, and enable growth of those already present. The demand is there, with The Beam almost full just months after opening its doors. And this building’s conversion will ensure there is yet-more high-quality office accommodation to attract companies into Sunderland – something that will give a boost to traders in the city centre who will benefit from a captive audience on their doorstep.
She added: “We have long-had an interest in Sunderland, with other properties across the city, so we have watched with interest as the city council have shared more about their plans for the area. We are very impressed by what we are seeing – and the Legal & General investment really did send a statement of intent to the market.
“We are delighted to have secured this property and look forward to playing a part in the rapid regeneration of the city.”
The refurbishment programme is expected to get underway in a matter of months, subject to planning consent, and Hanro expects the project to be available within a year.
The news is the latest in a string of positive announcements of development and investments in the city. Ocado announced plans to open a base in Sunderland just weeks after work on The Beam had completed and its team have started to move in. A second tenant, Penshaw View, has also taken space on the ground floor as it looks forward to expansion and last week Asset55, a Hebburn-based software business revealed it will be moving into the building. The second phase of work on the site – Riverside Sunderland – is already underway, with a new City Hall for Sunderland under construction, and that will be quickly followed by two further offices that are part of investment giant Legal & General’s £100m commitment to the city.
Among other exciting new city centre developments is a 120-room Holiday Inn hotel on Keel Square; a 450-seater auditorium, that is now under construction in the city’s Minster Quarter; a new business centre, in the former River Wear Commissioners Building; a mixed-use development that will see the historic Mackie’s Corner gradually become home to more retail and commercial businesses; as well as announcements in Seaburn of a STACK development and a pub with rooms from the Inn Collection Group. There have also been plans revealed for scores of new family homes across the city within the last few months, with investment totalling well over £100m.
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Hanro has a proven track record as an investor, having quietly gone about its business in the city and delivered excellent developments for many years.
“We are looking forward to seeing the company quickly breathe new life into this building. Hanro is absolutely ready to go with its plans; the team want to get this development moving, which is critical to us – we need regeneration to happen with pace and endeavour in Sunderland and backing the sale of this building to a company primed to deliver will enable that.
“The rate of transformation over the road, on the former Vaux Brewery site, is phenomenal. It will soon be matched by change in and around Keel Square, with Hays Travel having undertaken its work to Gilbridge House, and the Auditorium, a new Holiday Inn Hotel and now Gilbridge all set to take shape. It’s an exciting period and we’re determined to continue to ensure Sunderland is the most investible-city – a place with ambition and vision that investors can be part of.”