Thursday 17 June 2010

Pilgrim Street to get a much needed facelift

Bulldozers set to start work on Pilgrim Street
Jun 8 2010
by Amy Hunt
Evening Chronicle

DEMOLITION of eyesore buildings on a major Newcastle street is set to start.

Bulldozers should move into Pilgrim Street later this month to begin flattening properties and kick off the redevelopment of the area.

The former Bank of England and Bank House will be the first well-known buildings to be demolished.

The Bank of England site, at the bottom of Pilgrim Street next to the Swan House Roundabout, is earmarked for a new seven-storey office development, though it is unclear how quickly rebuilding work could start.

The former Odeon Cinema and the Dex car park opposite the new city Library are also set to be pulled down in the longer term.

The landmark buildings, which once made Pilgrim Street the “gateway to Newcastle”, are considered by council chiefs to be unsightly and an obstacle to improving the look of the area.

Developer Brookfield has yet to firm up plans for much of the East Pilgrim Street redevelopment area, but new shops, offices, hotels and student flats could be built.

Alan Peach, director of Brookfield, which owns much of the land in the area, said demolition of the first buildings was due to begin at the end of this month or early next. He said: “The first work that those visiting the city centre will see will be at the south end of the site.

“The Bank of England is an excellent headquarters office site and by demolishing it it’s bringing us to the stage of getting it back into use.”

Coun Bill Shepherd, the council’s executive member for regeneration, said: “It sounds to me like everything is going to plan and I’m delighted it is moving forward.”

The plans for East Pilgrim Street have proved controversial, not least because they involve the demolition of the art-deco Odeon, which conservation groups are desperate to protect.

Opened in 1931, the cinema was listed in 1999, on the advice of English Heritage, but was controversially de-listed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport less than eight months later, following an appeal by the building’s then owners Cinven. A campaign to re-list it failed.
In January Newcastle City Council admitted it could not stop the demolition but would work to see if there were any features inside worth saving.

Mr Peach said Brookfield had met with local interest groups and the city council over the cinema and how the history of the building could best be preserved.

Photo from The art-deco Dex car park on New Bridge Street was also the subject of failed efforts to get it listed last year.

Meanwhile hundreds of workers are in the process of moving out of Carliol House, on the corner of Pilgrim Street and Market Street.

Energy firm npower is moving all 900 staff from the city centre site to new offices at Rainton Bridge business park in Sunderland.

The Grade II-listed building, which was built in the 1920s, is now earmarked for renovation as part of the development of the East Pilgrim Street area.

The aim is to turn it into a four-star hotel, although work is unlikely to start for another nine to 12 months and the property is likely to remain empty until then.
Carliol House began life as the purpose-built headquarters of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Electric Supply Company, which later became Northern Electric.

The offices were sold to Innology, a subsidiary of npower, in 2000. In 2002 Innology was acquired by RWE and became RWE npower, the UK energy business of the RWE Group.

As previously reported in the Chronicle, council chiefs have also written to the owners of other buildings on Pilgrim Street asking them to make repairs and make them look better while the regeneration is going on.

If memory serves, the Odeon was listed on the strength of its art-deco interior, which was then stripped by its owners so they - allegedly - could sell the place for redevelopment. Or something like that.

Most of Pilgrim Street, barring the Tyneside Cinema, Alderman Fenwick's House and the nearby block housing the Italian bars and restaurants, has been in a wretched state for years, either because of long-term neglect or because the buildings were awful when they were built, like the Bank of England and Bank House and the dreadful Commercial Union building next to the Odeon. Who'd have thought the Monkey Bar, with its blistered exterior, was a town house dating from the 1740s? Mind you, I suspect some have the regulars have been there almost that long...

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