New lease of life for historic High Street buildings

July 8, 2021

New lease of life for historic High Street buildings

Three historic Sunderland buildings, including the original site of Binns department store have been brought spectacularly back to life following major restoration works.

Grade II listed properties 170-175 High Street West stood derelict for years before renovation works started, aiming to preserve original architecture and breathe new life into what was once a busy shopping destination.

The redevelopment of the buildings, which are owned by Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust, began in 2018 and has been supported by Historic England and Sunderland City Council with a grant of £350,000 through Sunderland Heritage Action Zone. (HAZ). The financial support paid for structural and external repairs, as well as the reinstatement of architectural details and features such as traditional shop fronts and windows, and completed this month, paving the way for the stunning properties to reopen their doors. 

And now the buildings will spring back into use, with new tenants in place, including Pop Recs and food retailer, the Sunshine Co-operative.  The programme complements the work undertaken at neighbouring Mackie's Corner which completed earlier this year and was also supported by the HAZ., rejuvenating the historic city centre.

Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: "It's great to see these historic buildings being restored and breathing a new lease of life into this beloved part of the city.

"After being vacant for many years, the buildings had been deteriorating, so Sunderland City Council and our partners at Historic England are thrilled to have been able to support the restoration project and protect Sunderland's heritage.

"As well as some of the spectacular new buildings we're seeing rise from the ground, we have a responsibility to care for the historic buildings we have.  We're very proud of the work we have done to bring these beautiful old properties back into use."

Built in the 1800s, the three terraced houses were originally residences for the middle class, before being converted soon after into shops and offices.

The most notable shop owner of the properties was George Binns, who opened his original haberdashery store in the middle property, No. 173, in 1811 and occupied the building for 73 years, before moving to a larger building on Fawcett Street and fast becoming the biggest and best-loved department store in Sunderland.

Historic England's Historic Places Advisor, Jules Brown, said: "These buildings were a real eyesore for many years so we're really pleased to have been able to help conserve them and unlock their potential with some HAZ funding. This is a great example of how we can support cultural entrepreneurs like Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust and their partners, helping to unleash the potential of historic buildings on the high street. The buildings and their new tenants are already helping to energise this part of town''.

Martin Hulse from Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust, said: "This has been an exceptionally difficult project to drag these buildings from the brink of collapse.  The buildings are an important part of Sunderland's heritage and it was essential to bring them back into use in order to support the regeneration of the local area.  There is still so much to do on High Street West and we'll be working closely with Historic England and the Council to bring life back to this area of the city centre". 

Further restoration projects under the Sunderland HAZ are planned to go ahead this year, including a new shop front for the Elephant Tea Rooms, which along with 170-175 High Street West and Mackie's Corner, will significantly enhance the street scene in this part of the city centre.

The first show at the new Pop Recs venue, High Street West, will be on 19th July, part of the Summer Streets Festival 2021.  Tickets available at summerstreetsfestival.com