In this blog I will look at a recent regeneration project in the heart of Sunderland that promotes creativity, activity and education on the Cities rich heritage. As part of the Councils Minster Quarter Masterplan, the north-western most part of the city centre has been selected as the Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Quarter due to the vast numbers of listed buildings and historic streetscapes in this part of the city. As part of this project the old Sunderland fire station was chosen as a pioneering regeneration project that hoped to spark activity and investment in to the city centre.
To the people of Sunderland, the fire station has been a large part of the city’s history and this is evident from such a positive reception to the restoration of the building. The building was first opened in 1907 after it had become evident after the great fire of Sunderland in 1898 that the provision and equipment for firefighting in Sunderland was not adequate for a city of its size.
Being designed by the Milburn Brothers, historic architects located in Sunderland who designed many of the buildings lining the streets still today, the building was of a quirky Edwardian style and was even mentioned in Pevners ‘Buildings of England’ as having an “Elegant facade of 1906-07 with rusticated arched entrances for the fire engines”. Surprisingly the building was in fact never listed but held great sentimental value to people of Sunderland and finally shut its door in 1992.
Regeneration Proposals and Urban Design Principles
After over 20 years of the building being left lifeless, it was highlighted as a critical regeneration site as it had begun to deteriorate and would have led to the loss of one of the city’s most elegant structures. Sunderland Council assisted and funded by the Mac trust put forward proposals to not only bring back life to the building but also pay respects to its past.
The scheme that was eventually agreed upon aimed to promote music, arts and teach culture through the development of dance studios, rehearsal spaces and a heritage centre. The proposal of a new bar and restaurant on the ground floor would also create activity in the area, providing active frontages on to high street west and public realm improvement at the front of the building. While keeping and fixing the original façade of the building that the people of Sunderland have grown to love and remember.
The Completed Project
The building was finally reopened to the public on November the 23rdand has had nothing but positive responses since. 6 months down the line and it is still a thriving place of creativity, activity and leisure. So much so that is has even seen guest appearances from Royals Kate and William. What has it done for the City? Giving a use or reason for people to visit this part of the city has obvious implications on the economic benefits for all businesses in its surrounding area. It has also drastically improved the night time offer in Sunderland that was previously far less desirable than it could be. It has also given Sunderland a starting point and marker for further redevelopment and regeneration projects in the future.
Additionally, plans have been accepted for a 420-seat auditorium and music venue to the rear of the Fire Station that again looks to follow the original principles of encouraging and promoting music and arts.
- SunderlandBid (2017). OLD FIRE STATION REDEVELOPMENT(Online) Available at: https://www.sunderlandbid.co.uk/bid/projects/old-fire-station-redevelopment(Accessed 14 March 2018)
- Chronicle (2017). Plans for new Sunderland auditorium given green light by the Arts Council (Online) Available at: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/plans-new-sunderland-auditorium-given-10701844(Accessed 14 March 2018)
- SunderlandEcho (2017). See inside the new bar at Sunderland’s The Fire Station ahead of opening. (Online) Available at: https://www.sunderlandecho.com/whats-on/pubs-and-clubs/see-inside-the-new-bar-at-sunderland-s-the-fire-station-ahead-of-opening-1-8839676 (Accessed 14 March 2018)
- The Fire Station (Online) Available at:https://www.macq.org.uk/the-history/the-fire-station/(Accessed 14 March 2018)