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Business & Economy

Former Sunderland police HQ set to become £3 million business hub

The former Sunderland city centre police headquarters is set to be transformed into a £3 million new business centre, after the building was snapped up by a developer following a competitive bid-process.

The Newcastle-based Hanro Group has agreed outline terms with Sunderland City Council to buy the former Gilbridge Police Station, which is located near Keel Square in the city centre, a short distance from flagship business development The Beam at the former Vaux Brewery site.

The 33,000 sq ft building has been earmarked for development since Northumbria Police closed its doors in 2015, and an 18-month exclusivity deal signed by the council and Newcastle developer Hoults expired last year.

This sparked fresh interest in the site, and a number of new proposals were received, with Hanro’s application — which included a pledge for £3 million towards the refurbishment — beating out the competition.

As part of its application, Hanro submitted detailed plans for transforming the vacant building into modern flexible office spaces aimed at SME occupiers, offering a range of suites from 500 sq ft to 2,150 sq ft.

The building will also undergo extensive refurbishment both internally and externally, transforming the ‘brutalist’ concrete-clad police station into a modern working environment with stylish common areas.

Work is due to start in a matter of months, subject to planning consent, and Hanro expects the first units will be available within a year.

Hanro Group has an extensive portfolio of commercial properties and office spaces across the North East, and previously converted Barclays House on Newcastle’s Grey Street into a suite of modern A grade offices.

This latest acquisition is part of an ongoing series of investments in Sunderland by Hanro, which has already invested in excess of £20 million in the city over the last three years, including the development of retail space in Trimdon Street.

Hanro Group’s managing director, Adam Serfontein, said: “The building is rather iconic and its prime position, opposite the Riverside Sunderland development, means that there is a great opportunity to complement the offer of this emerging location by adding flexible suites in an attractive ‘hub’ environment.

“Our ambition is to provide a facility to attract growth business and foster the SME sector.”

Council leader Graeme Miller commented: “Hanro has a proven track record as an investor, having quietly gone about its business in the city and delivered excellent developments for many years.

“We are looking forward to seeing the company quickly breathe new life into this building.

“Hanro is absolutely ready to go with its plans; the team want to get this development moving, which is critical to us – we need regeneration to happen with pace and endeavour in Sunderland and the sale of this building will enable that.”

“The rate of transformation on the Vaux site is phenomenal. It will soon be matched by change in and around Keel Square.”