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Work gets underway to restore historic Sunderland buildings

14 July, 2022

Work gets underway to restore historic Sunderland buildings (HSW)

Work has started this week to restore two historic Sunderland buildings as part of an ongoing regeneration programme to preserve the city's heritage.

The buildings at 177 High Street West and 1-2 Villiers Street are two of the last long-term vacant properties in the Old Sunderland Riverside Conservation Area, which are now being restored to their former glory and brought back into use as part of Sunderland's Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) - a scheme led and funded by Sunderland City Council and Historic England.

The Council owned properties will be transferred to the Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust (TWBPT). Working with Mosedale Gillatt Architects and Northern Construction Solutions Ltd, the Trust will deliver the first phase of the works with a £350,000 grant from the Levelling Up Fund and £65,000 from the Architectural Heritage Fund. The works will see the properties undergo roof and structural repairs, the removal of pebble dash and rendering in lime render, and window repairs and replacements.

The second phase of works will be funded by the HAZ partnership grant scheme and will enliven the street frontages with the reinstatement of high quality traditional shops fronts. The project will build on the successful restoration and reuse of neighbouring 170-175 High Street West, which is now home to local businesses including Pop Recs and Sunshine Co-operative.

Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: "After standing empty for many years, I'm delighted to see the restoration work begin at these fantastic buildings, helping to rejuvenate this historic part of our city centre and continue building upon the brilliant work of the Sunderland HAZ initiative.

"Between the important regeneration works in the city centre and the incredible new buildings transforming the skyline, Sunderland really is an exciting place to be."

Dating back to the late 18th century when Old Sunderland, which began in the East End, started to expand westwards into Sunniside and what is now the city centre, the building at 177 High Street West was originally built with commercial space on the ground floor and residential homes above.

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. 

Martin Hulse, from Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust, said: "Hopefully by Christmas we will see these buildings occupied by local businesses and community groups.  It has been a delight to work with the Council over the past five years to bring activity back to High Street West. Pop Recs and Sunshine Co-operative have already made a huge impact and we hope this next scheme will bring even more people to the area."

Gavin Richards, programme manager for the Architectural Heritage Fund said: "We are pleased to see work on this section of historic High Street West get underway. This is the latest project in the HAZ that we have invested funds in through our Transforming Places through Heritage programme and builds on the great work already delivered in the area by Tyne & Wear BPT, which has developed a productive partnership with the City Council."

Further restoration projects under Sunderland's HAZ scheme are set to go ahead this year, including the external repair of the Grade II listed Elephant Tea Rooms to include striking new shop fronts that, together with the completed projects at Mackie's Corner and 170-175 High Street West, will dramatically improve this historic part of the city centre.

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