Exclusive - a first look inside Sunderland's new £42m City Hall
It’s been rising into the skyline for two years - and now Sunderland’s new £42m City Hall is all set to welcome tenants and visitors.
A cornerstone of the £500m Riverside development which is changing the face of the city centre with a mix of offices, leisure and homes, the new headquarters for Sunderland City Council will be open from Monday, November 29, with a phased relocation of council services.
The 190,000sq ft premises is the second building to be completed on the former Vaux site following the opening of The Beam in 2019 and is a real focal point of the Riverside masterplan that is transforming a 33.2 hectare site across both sides of the River Wear, which will eventually be linked with a new pedestrian bridge.
As around 2,000 workers from the council and tenants including Gentoo, the Department for Work and Pensions and Sunderland College move into the building, the Echo had a first look around this striking new site designed by FaulknerBrowns.
The left side of four floors and right side of six is linked with a stunning atrium housing a maroon steel staircase, a colour inspired by the hull of a ship in a nod to the riverside’s long-gone ship building industry.
The building is being managed by Knight Frank. As general manager of the City Hall, Colin Higgins was one of the first to start working from the site, and he says it’s been great to see people’s reaction to the interior.
"Awe-inspiring is a phrase people have been using,” he said. “It’s certainly a very impressive, handsome building that blends modern with industrial with its exposed pipes and conduits.
"This building opening is a real milestone for the Riverside development and it looks magnificent, it’s certainly a building the city can be proud of. We’ve had a lot of interest from members of the public, and a fair few knocks on the door, so it will be great to see workers moving in and the public coming in to use the building as it was intended.”
A total of 50 bookable meeting rooms are located across all six floors, with the largest space being the new council chamber which can accommodate up to 300 people. Also on the ground floor is a coffee shop, called Brew & Bake.
Other larger rooms include the coroner’s court and a ceremony room for weddings and other events, where people can get married in front of panoramic views of the city.
Meanwhile, the mayoral parlour can accommodate up to 120 people for activities such as fundraising events or, alternatively, the space can be subdivided into three separate rooms.
Sustainability and reducing the city’s carbon footprint is also a key part of the design. There’s no parking at the City Hall, to encourage workers to use public transport and roofs, terraces and much of the interior house plants. In addition, the new council chamber will make it easier than ever to join meetings remotely, in-line with the city’s ambitions to become carbon neutral by 2040.