Two more historic buildings in Sunderland city centre to be saved and restored under regeneration plans
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A number of historic properties have already seen work to bring them back to life as part of the Sunderland Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) and the city's ongoing regeneration.
Now two more are to undergo restoration after the Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust (TWBPT) and Sunderland City Council secured £103,000 funding for 177 High Street West and 1-2 Villiers Street.
The team says this funding will help develop and deliver a scheme to bring the properties back to life and attract more investment to this area of the city centre.
Sadly, both buildings are in a poor state of repair and two of the last long-term vacancies in this area.
The properties date back to the late 18th century from when Old Sunderland, which had begun in the East End, started to expand westwards into Sunniside and what is now the city centre.
Sunderland City Council's cabinet member for Dynamic City, Councillor Rebecca Atkinson said: "The extra funding is very welcome as it's recognition of the importance of these buildings. We can now draw up more detailed plans for exactly what these properties need and how we bring them back to life.
"Regeneration and new investments into the city centre - in both new and older historic properties such as these - are very much part of our City Plan for a more dynamic, healthy and vibrant Sunderland."
Funding has come from the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) and Historic England. The funds will survey the buildings, appraise options for their regeneration, develop a business plan and design a scheme that can be submitted as a planning application.
Sunderland’s Historic High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) was established in 2017 following a successful bid from the Council to Historic England.
It aims to address the heritage needs of the city centre and Old Town’s declining historic high streets and their environs, more specifically addressing Heritage at Risk across the zone and providing the catalyst to stimulate the area’s wider economic growth.
Matthew Mckeague, the chief executive officer of AHF, said the Sunderland High Street project funds were secured with the Transforming Places Through Heritage grants programme and Heritage Impact Fund.
He said: "The project demonstrates the importance of partnership working in bringing life back to our high streets, and the vital role of social enterprises in forging a brighter future. It is an exciting time for Sunderland’s regeneration and the emphasis it has placed on heritage-led regeneration is fantastic to see - we think these projects will further catalyse the east end of the city’s revival."
The council and Historic England have been working in partnership through the Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) including restoration works at 170-175 High Street West.
The council and its partners have also been working closely with owners on the restoration of Mackie's Corner.
Jules Brown, Historic Places Adviser at Historic England, said: "177 High Street West and 1-2 Villiers Street are two of the last long-term vacant historic buildings in the Old Sunderland Riverside Conservation Area to be restored and re-purposed for the 21st Century.
“This regeneration project will go a long way to helping to remove this special part of Sunderland from the Heritage At Risk register."
The HAZ is part of the wider programme of regeneration and investment across the city, including Riverside Sunderland, a new urban quarter that extends from the former Vaux brewerty site to Sheepfolds on the north side of the River Wear.
This is supported by the council’s own investment, plus substantial private sector backing, including a £100million commitment to the city centre from Legal & General. The investments are supporting the new City Hall and two more office sites on the former brewery site, that will stand alongside the flagship building, The Beam.
Developments also include the hotel in Keel Square, the 450-seater auditorium in the Minster Quarter, and the new business centre in the former River Wear Commissioners Building.
Martin Hulse, manager at TWBPT, said: "These buildings on High Street West and Villiers Street are in need of being reborn and provide a great opportunity to continue the revival of this part of the high street. It feels incredible that working with the council and funders we are transforming the area.
"The importance of the High Street and bringing activity and animation is also crucial. Not everyone realises that Sunderland began down in the East End with the Exchange Building forming the town hall and then development moved westwards and up the hill as the town expanded.
"These two buildings were built at the end of the 18th century as Sunderland expanded up the hill. They help to explain the development of the town, are important as part of a wider story about Sunderland and support the work at 170-175 High St West to enhance the character of the area.
"The building at 177 High Street West would have been built as commercial space on the ground floor with residential above. It has a wonderful double height space on the ground floor that is supported on slim cast iron columns. The rear building on Villiers Street is slightly younger and was a purpose built bank with records describing it as the Union Joint Stock Bank."