Sunderland’s now defunct Gilbridge police station building is set to be transformed into a state-of-the-art business centre as part of a £4million revamp, the Echo can reveal.
Charlie Hoult and his team want to transform the former station, which closed in 2015, into a “flexible and inspirational space” for office and leisure use.
Hoults have signed an exclusivity agreement with Sunderland City Council, the building’s owners, and appointed a new project manager to oversee the conversion.
The former police HQ will be known as Station H, a coded police reference from radio days when police were signing off for home.
“Sunderland has been quietly investing heavily to change the face of the city and catch the next wave of North East growth,” said Mr Hoult, who is owner of Hoults Yard business village in Newcastle.
“I have to say I’ve been bowled over by the way we’ve been welcomed into Sunderland.
“It’s an easy city in which to do business.
“We’re very keen to get started on the Police Station and we’re already showing prospective tenants around the building.
“We know what we want to do: create the supportive, creative environment we have at Hoults Yard – great offices but also ping pong tournaments, dog shows for our tenants’ hounds and great connections between our customers.
“We go far beyond being a centre for 150 businesses; our community vibe pulls together an eclectic mix of people through Food Fridays, live music, live screenings, coffee mornings and charity fundraising.
“Diversity is important, so we’d be happy to welcome a wide range of businesses, by sector, or size.
“At the Yard we have many IT and fashion firms, but also hair salons, gyms, solicitors, call centres and architects.
“It’s about the mindset of the customers, not necessarily what they do behind the desk.”
The site will have 45,000 sq ft of rentable space, with space for some 200 workers, and the aim is also to make it alive with people and events.
Mr Hoult added: “The location for Station H is perfect for the new growth in the city – central to Keel Square and the emerging Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Quarter and opposite the Vaux site.
“We’ll have our own parking, and there’s also plenty of other parking spaces close by.
“Some people aren’t perhaps big fans of the building, but brutalist architecture is bang on trend.
“We can soften it a bit with some lighting and colour and open it up for admirers.”
Councillor Mel Speding, cabinet secretary for Sunderland City Council, said: “The city council purchased the former station and site in 2015 as part of its on-going work in developing and enhancing our city centre.
“By gaining ownership, the council wanted to open up more options and ideas for new development and this is what has been recognised with this deal.
“Proposals for Station H are about providing a new type of offer for business complementing what the City Council and Siglion are delivering on Vaux.
“A programme of works to help improve area access is being timetabled for Spring 2018 and I know many across our city will welcome Hoults into Sunderland with this new venture.”
Sunderland Council plans to lengthen Garden Lane, between The Empire Theatre and The Dun Cow, to join Livingstone Road, and chiefs say this work will have a bearing on when work could start on Station H.
“There are the Garden Lane roadworks and of course we have to go through the correct planning process, but we’re raring to go and the council has been very helpful and supportive so I’d like to think we can start work on site soon,” said Mr Hoult.
Those interested in an office or space in Station H, or prospective tenants who would like a tour should email Mr Hoult at Charlie.firstname.lastname@example.org.