Almost £2million worth of work on the historic buildings and landscape of Sunderland's up-and-coming Minster Quarter is to get underway thanks to National Lottery funding.
The £1.9million National Lottery grant has been awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to Sunderland City Council as a Townscape Heritage Scheme.
The council will use the cash to work with owners and tenants to restore and enhance properties near the Minster, and to bring improvements to Town Park. A five-year programme of activities and events to promote the area's heritage is also being planned.
Buildings and land around the Minster, the Empire Theatre and Town Park are all part of the Bishopwearmouth Conservation Area, it is one of the three original settlements that came together to form Sunderland, and one of the first parts of the city to be designated as a conservation area.
Councillor Stuart Porthouse, the City Council's cabinet member for Housing and Regeneration, said: "New works around Keel Square have been completed, the old Fire Station has been restored with National Lottery money, and work has begun on landscaping and improving access around the Empire and the former Gilbridge Police Station.
"A new 500 seater auditorium has been planned and work on that is due to begin next year. I'm very pleased to report that there's a lot happening in and around the Minster Quarter and we can expect even more with this award from the National Lottery.
"We at the council and our partners at the National Lottery are very keen to hear from people who would like to work with us on preserving and enhancing our city's Minster Quarter."
The heritage area contains 11 listed buildings including the Grade II* listed Empire Theatre, Sunderland Minster, and the Peacock and Dun Cow Public Houses.
It also contains Town Park, a key civic space at the heart of the conservation area that includes the registered Bishopwearmouth Village Green.
Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: "Money raised by National Lottery players has achieved an incredible amount for Sunderland’s heritage, with over £36million invested into projects including the Fire Station, Hylton Castle and Holy Trinity Church.
“We’re delighted that Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme is one of those projects. This scheme is all about investing and helping to conserve and improve one of Sunderland's most-loved and distinctive areas.
"It's a part of the city that is loved by its residents and it attracts many thousands of visitors. This National Lottery funding is an opportunity to enable more people in the future to benefit from the area and enjoy its many highlights and attractions."
The Reverend Canon Stuart Bain, who is the new provost of Sunderland Minster, said: "This will become a great area of the city for people to come along and relax and spend time here.
"It's certainly good news for Sunderland and follows on from the HLF's work which is happening now at the Minster over the next few months including improvements to the north roof.
"We want this whole area to be a really exciting place to be."