Fears for future of landmark Sunderland building

Mackies Corner at the junction of Fawcett Steet and High Steet West, Sunderland
Mackies Corner at the junction of Fawcett Steet and High Steet West, Sunderland
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It’s a landmark building which has watched over the city centre since Victorian times.

But as 2017 begins, there are fears for the future of Mackie’s Corner, which has stood empty for years.

Hutchinson Buildings pictured in the past.

Hutchinson Buildings pictured in the past.

The site has been marketed for some time, but a new lease of life for the block High Street West is yet to be found.

Mackie’s Corner is part of Hutchinson’s Buildings, which runs from the corner of Bridge Street.

It was home to Sweet Home Alabama until 2012, when the business made the move to Fawcett Street, and remains boarded up.

Supermarket worker Lee Anderson, 39, from Silksworth, says he has lobbied owner Gentoo to take action for the last two years and believes more should be done to preserve the building.

We’ve lost a lot of good buildings through greed and looking at this building, it’s been like this for three years with boards up saying it’s an investment opportunity.

Lee Anderson

The company says it has held “a number of conversations” with potentially interested parties but no talks have progressed any further to date.

Steve Lanaghan, assistant chief executive of Gentoo, said: “Gentoo acquired the Hutchinson’s Buildings back in 2007; this was part of our commitment to supporting major regeneration of the city centre with a number of partners.

“Unfortunately, due to market conditions this building has now been empty for a number of years.

“We have continued to carry out work to ensure the building is safe and secure.

Hutchinsons Buildings pictured in 1939.

Hutchinsons Buildings pictured in 1939.

“Over the years there have been a number of conversations with interested parties regarding the future use of the building, however, to date these have not progressed.

“On a positive note, we continue to have discussions with other interested parties and will share any outcomes at the appropriate time.”

Mr Anderson said: “We’ve lost a lot of good buildings through greed and looking at this building, it’s been like this for three years with boards up saying it’s an investment opportunity.

“It’s just been left like that to rot.

Mackie's Corner photographed on March 21,1953.

Mackie's Corner photographed on March 21,1953.

“I don’t think the people of Sunderland deserve that.

“Gentoo is building houses in Gosforth and Prudhoe. It would be good to see some of that reinvested here.

“If anyone’s got the resources and people to do it, it’s them.”

Gentoo says it has carried out a number of surveys and carried out a range of essential remedial works, with further works to the front facade and roof planned for early this year.

The company says it has also invited Mr Anderson in to talk about the building on a number of occasions after he made contact via social media, but he has not yet taken officers up on their offer.

Hutchinson’s Buildings date back to 1845, when timber merchant Ralph Hutchinson began to build it out of Edinburgh stone.

Lee Anderson, who has raised concerns about the future of Hutchinsons Building in Sunderland.

Lee Anderson, who has raised concerns about the future of Hutchinsons Building in Sunderland.

The ground floor was devoted to shops and the upper storeys were residential properties.

The domed corner site got its name from Robert Mackie, a hatter, who moved in following the completion of construction in 1850.

According to historians, it was customary on New Year’s Eve to attempt to run the length of Fawcett Street from Mackie’s Corner to the Gas Offices in the time the clock took to strike 12, while it is said there is a duplicate of the building in Sydney, Australia, built by Sunderland emigrants.

A section of the block remains a legendary part of Sunderland’s nightlife after it became home to Chambers, which opened in the late 80s playing host to DJs including Judge Jules, Danny Rampling, Alex P, Brandon Block, Graeme Park and Farley Jackmaster Funk.

It closed in 2002, with nighspot Retox among the last businesses to run from the block.

In July 1898 a fire destroyed the eastern half of Hutchinson’s Building, which started in Havelock House, destroying 48 properties.

The incident led to establishment of Sunderland’s first well-equipped fire brigade.

Hutchinson Buildings High Street West, Sunderland.

Hutchinson Buildings High Street West, Sunderland.