Sneak peek inside historic River Wear Commissioners Building as it enters new chapter as business centre

Finishing touches are being made to a landmark city centre building as it’s transformed into a business centre to help boost the local economy.

Saturday, 19th June 2021, 4:55 am

Situated on the corner of St Thomas Street and John Street, the River Wear Commissioners Building was bought by Adavo Workspace – a company specialising in renovating and retrofitting grandiose old buildings into modern business centres – in March 2019.

Following an extensive £3m refurbishment program, the company has transformed the building into a modern, energy efficient state-of-the-art business centre while retaining all of its unique and original features.

Mark Black, CEO of Adavo Workspace said: “We’re passionate about growing local jobs in the North East and building the region’s entrepreneurial spirit, and the Commissioner Building continues that mission.

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The transformation of the River Wear Commissioners' Buildings
The transformation of the River Wear Commissioners' Buildings

“It’s a hugely important cultural icon for the city and it’s been an absolute privilege to be able to put the life back into it. It will be a great place for local Sunderland companies to get off the ground, grow into the future Sunderland success stories and support the region’s burgeoning economy. Adavo as a project is about bringing big business back to the North East – give them a home, they’ll grow and they’ll stay – just look at the likes of Sage.”

The Wearside project follows the success of previous Adavo refurbishments at the Town Hall in Wallsend and The Clervaux Exchange in Jarrow.

Mark added: “We’ve already welcomed our first tenants into Commissioners ahead of full completion which is massively encouraging and are receiving lots of enquiries too. Covid has been hugely disruptive but the existing centres are full and thriving and we’re confident The Commissioners will soon be brimming with businesses in no time and making a positive contribution to Sunderland’s economy over the years to come.

“Covid has had a major impact for all businesses, but we’re seeing that industry by industry it is certainly a mixed bag. Financial services firms for example are experiencing a bit of boom, and lots of North East businesses have adapted incredibly well to the new landscape. It’s not all bad news by any stretch of the imagination.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council and Mark Black, chief executive of Adavo Workspace at the River Wear Commissioners Building.

"We’ve worked closely with our tenants, supported them wherever we could and have invested heavily in making the buildings Covid-secure and fit for purpose going forward. We took the decisions to make permanent installations rather than temporary and that looks the right call.

“Touchless toilets, automated switches and sanitiser points on all communal areas come as standard. Success in the future will be about adapting to new working patterns of attending work flexibly, but 90%+ of businesses will still need a base and a hub to be able to get everyone together. We’re social creatures, and there’s an energy about working as a team in the same space that can’t be beat. That part will still be there.”

He added: “We’ve done a few centres now but we’re seriously proud of this one; it’s a real jewel in the crown.”

The Commissioners Building will comprise 48 units with office space from two to twenty persons, as well catering for external organisations with use of the grand Commissioners Chamber and Boardroom facilities.

The staircase is one of the striking original features. Photo by Robin Hunter.

It features beautiful oak panelling, ornate wood carvings, granite, marble and sandstone features. Its development is part of a £500million city centre investment programme to attract more business into Sunderland.

The first phases of the Commissioners Building are now complete and available prior to the building’s main launch with fully inclusive office spaces available to rent. For more information about The Commissioners Building, visit: www.adavoworkspace.co.uk.

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Inside the business centre. Photo by Robin Hunter

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The former head office of the River Wear Commissioners in Sunderland.
The work spaces have been created by Adavo. Photo by Robin Hunter
The building dates back to 1907. Photo by Robin Hunter
The building has been modernised while being sympathetic to its historic features.