Major renovation of Sunderland's Mackie's Corner, including much-loved Chambers site, nears completion

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The landmark building is now home to 25 independent businesses, with 1,200 visitors through the doors each week.

Once a forgotten, but albeit still grand, reminder of Victorian Sunderland, Mackie’s Corner has risen from the ashes to become a hub of retail and business once more.

New life has been given to Mackie’s Corner giving it a bright future whilst honouring its pastNew life has been given to Mackie’s Corner giving it a bright future whilst honouring its past
New life has been given to Mackie’s Corner giving it a bright future whilst honouring its past | collage

It was built by local businessman Ralph Hutchinson on the corner of Fawcett Street and Bridge Street to accommodate the then town’s very first fashion stores in the 1840s, who named the buildings Hutchinson’s Buildings - a name still carved in the stone above its main door.

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It became a busy shopping destination and one of its most-popular tenants would inform its colloquial name of Mackie’s Corner.

Mackie’s Corner was a popular yesteryear shopping destination - and it’s become one once moreMackie’s Corner was a popular yesteryear shopping destination - and it’s become one once more
Mackie’s Corner was a popular yesteryear shopping destination - and it’s become one once more | Sunderland Echo

Occupying the prime corner unit, hat maker Robert Mackie would often draw attention from passersby who could see him crafting titfers through the window.

In later years, the buildings housed city institutions such as Chambers nightclub, however, the building fell into disrepair during the late 20th century and from the early 2000s it had mostly lain derelict, a ghost of its former self.

Seeing the potential in one of the city’s finest old buildings, in 2017 it was taken over by Sunderland firm Kirtley Co who have completely transformed the Grade II-listed site, whilst honouring its rich heritage.

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The Sunderland family-owned commercial property landlord spent years painstakingly restoring original features, from the clock which can be seen from the other end of High Street West and the old music posters which once plastered Chambers still on the walls to the last remaining original window in the building.

Original Chambers features including the posters and an old lamp still feature in this recruitment agency’s offices Original Chambers features including the posters and an old lamp still feature in this recruitment agency’s offices
Original Chambers features including the posters and an old lamp still feature in this recruitment agency’s offices | Sunderland Echo

Now, after the firm renovated 30,000sqft, Mackie’s Corner is home to 25 independent businesses with 100 people working there daily - set to increase to 150 once at capacity - with 1,200 visitors through the doors per week.

There’s only five units still available: two ground floor retail / hospitality units and three upstairs in The Co.llective area.

Communal kitchen area for businesses who call Mackie’s Corner homeCommunal kitchen area for businesses who call Mackie’s Corner home
Communal kitchen area for businesses who call Mackie’s Corner home | Sunderland Echo

The ground floor is now well-known for its customer-facing businesses such as The Fat Unicorn and The Sweet Petite, but upstairs is also a hive of activity, home to a range of businesses from a recruitment agency and creative agencies to a bridal boutique, art school, yoga studio and aesthetic and nail technicians.

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Two new hospitality ventures will also be announced soon, from well-known North East names.

After two tenants moved out this year, Master Debonair and Cafe 1851, the team divided the units.

One of the ground floor units which is available to rentOne of the ground floor units which is available to rent
One of the ground floor units which is available to rent | Sunderland Echo

Alex Kirtley, managing director at Kirtley Co, said: “We’ve learnt from the past five years of business here, what works for independents, and what space works, and have taken larger units and made them smaller to create work space upstairs which drives footfall whilst downstairs we’ve split the units down to create a better space for small independents to thrive.”

It’s been a long road to take an old Victorian building and make it part of Sunderland’s future regeneration and burgeoning business hub and Alex says it’s great to see the landmark site alive once more.

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Even the old clock tower has been put to good use and is now a meeting space, arguably one of the most unusual in the city.

Many will remember the old Chambers entrance, which is now the entrance for the upper level businessesMany will remember the old Chambers entrance, which is now the entrance for the upper level businesses
Many will remember the old Chambers entrance, which is now the entrance for the upper level businesses | Sunderland Echo

“I love hearing the feedback from tenants,” she said. “People who work here love that it feels completely different to anyone else, it’s so unique and quirky.

“There’s a real community of creative and wellness businesses here and they love welcoming their customers into this space.”

The Art Room at Mackie’s CornerThe Art Room at Mackie’s Corner
The Art Room at Mackie’s Corner | Sunderland Echo

Since the Kirtley family began their renovation project, Sunderland has come on leaps and bounds with the major Riverside development nearby which is aimed at having more people living and working in the city centre and a wave of hospitality ventures opening their doors.

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There’s 25 businesses now based at the siteThere’s 25 businesses now based at the site
There’s 25 businesses now based at the site | submitted

“We were one of the original independent investors in this area,” said Alex. “But we truly believed that the city could come to fruition in the way it has. It was a risk but all the surrounding investment shows it was worth it.

“We’re now in a position where we have Newcastle businesses choosing to come to Sunderland. It’s much cheaper to rent here and you get a better quality for your money. As a landlord, we give reasonable rents so that businesses can succeed.

“It’s also about changing the generational mindset that there is a great offer here and Sunderland is a great place to do business.”

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