The tills at Sunderland’s iconic Joplings site may have fallen silent eight years ago, but the legacy of the popular department store lives on in the site’s new chapter.
Work is nearing completion on the site in John Street, which will open its doors as student accommodation in January.
As well as being honoured in the new name, Jopling House, the original signs are being restored and the well-known clock on the corner of the site is being replaced with a new, working clock.
Joplings’ place in Wearside’s shopping history began in 1919 when it launched in High Street West before moving to John Street in 1956, and new owners Groovy Students say it was important to remember the site’s past in their design.
Steven Kwan, spokesperson for the company and himself a former Sunderland University student, said: “Joplings is a Sunderland institution which goes back decades and it was such a shame when it went into administration in 2010.
“It would be such a shame for all that history to be lost, but we’ve managed to keep some of it, such as with the name. The public reaction to the site is so strong that the name Jopling House was a no brainer for us so that we could carry that legacy on.”
The former store is now home to 140 en-suite student rooms, which are a mixture of rooms, studios and apartments ranging from 35sq metres to 60sq metres, as well as communal rooms, a gym, yoga room and conference rooms, the latter of which is available to the community.
Speaking about what appealed about the site, Steven said: “The sheer size and location was perfect for us. There had been previous plans for a hotel on the site but they never came to fruition and it’s such a shame to have a huge building like this standing derelict in the city centre.
“It was a perfect opportunity for us and students are an important part of the city centre. Sunderland University has such a big influence on the city’s economy and it’s important to have students living and spending in the city centre.”
He added: “Although the rooms are all en-suite and many have kitchens, we also have a number of communal areas in the building as we feel it’s important for students to have that sense of community whilst also being able to have their own privacy. Mental wellness is a big thing for students and it’s important that they’re able to support each other.”
A number of rooms, which start from £89 a week, have already been taken at the site which will have 24/7 security and daily cleaning staff.
It’s taken more than a year of building work from Spitfire Construction and more than a million pounds of investment to breathe new life into the site and Steven says although final touches are still being made there’s been a lot of interest in its new chapter.
“We’ve had a lot of interest,” explained Steven. “We released a block of 30 rooms without doing much publicity and 15 of them have already gone. We’ve also had a lot of interest from the general public walking past who are keen to see what we’ve done with the site.”
Future plans at Jopling House include creating a number of parking spaces in the basement, as well as a late night cafe, open to the public, which will be on the ground floor under the famous clock.