New life has been breathed into a historic city centre building as it aims to attract new business to Sunderland.
After two years of building works, the former Gas Board building in Hind Street has been restored and built onto to create Hope Street Xchange, which is named after the road to the rear of the site.
The Grade II-listed red brick building now forms part of a new six-storey enterprise and innovation centre operated by Sunderland University.
Part of a £10million development of the area, the new facility offers 30 commercial offices, event space and seven workshop spaces, as well as the Fab Lab, which has relocated from nearby Shackleton House, and facilities to support start-up businesses.
As well as featuring art works by artist Lothar Goetz, the building is fitted throughout with state of the art audio and visual technology, while also retaining its period features.
A cafe on the ground floor is also due to be opened, which will be available to members of the public.
Rebecca Robinson, commercial property manager, said: “We very much want to be part of the city centre and have held a number of tours for people who are interested in what we’re doing. There’s been a lot of interest in the building as people have been driving past the building works for months now.”
She added: “The architects have worked really hard to keep the features of the listed building, such as beams and exposed brick where possible, and to blend it in with the modern arm of the building.”
The building had formerly housed The Art Studio and lecture rooms, but were under-used compared to other university sites.
A number of businesses have already taken up office space within the building and will be moving in over the coming weeks.
Mal Robinson, commercial manager at Uni Space, said: “This is the third commercial property operated by the university and we believe it’s a great addition to the city centre, and complements the developments that are taking place around the Old Fire Station and the old Vaux site.”
One of the first events to take place at the site will be an International Women’s Day conference on March 8.
The event has been organised by Jeni Banks, managing director of The Mussel Club; owner of RedHandbag Sharon MacArthur; Cheryl Holmstrom, Enterprise & Innovation, University of Sunderland and Louise Kennedy managing director of Oculus HR.