November 6, 2020 @ 8:56 by Richard Dawson
The home of the former Hills Bookshop in Sunderland is set to be revived in a bid to boost the city’s arts and cultural scene.
The landmark building at Waterloo Place will be transformed into a new independent arts venue by local entrepreneurs Mark Burns Cassell and Vincent Todd.
Mark and Vincent are the duo behind Norfolk Street Arts, a community interest company that supports the development of artists and curators in Sunderland.
Together, they are converting the 5600 sq ft former bookstore into a vibrant mixed-use facility.
Hills Bookshop first opened its doors on Christmas Eve in 1852 and became famous for its vast range of books, arts and crafts.
The store closed in 2006 but is still remembered fondly by Wearside residents.
The Norfolk Street Arts team were assisted in the transaction by the commercial property team at Muckle LLP, with financial support coming from NatWest.
The new venue is on course to open on Christmas Eve 2021 – 169 years to the day Hills Bookshop first opened.
It will host an independent café, bookshop and stationery supplies, provide exhibition and gallery space, as well as community workshop facilities with disabled access.
Mark Burns Cassell, Norfolk Street Arts co-director, said: “We are thrilled to be taking over this fantastic and historic building to breathe new life into its walls once again.
“Hills Bookshop was home to so many fond memories and we’re aiming to build on this rich history by lovingly restoring and converting this disused space into an independent arts centre in the heart of the city.
“We have been overwhelmed by the support and interest in the project, which stands to boost our cultural economy by supporting artists and bringing increased vibrancy and creativity to our city’s arts scene.
“We hope that, in time, our new venture will become as treasured and well used as the wonderful former bookstore was in its prime.”
Giles McCourt, associate solicitor and real estate expert at Muckle LLP, added: “I have fond childhood memories of visiting Hills Bookshop with my family and it’s fantastic to see this exciting new venture get off the ground.”