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REGENERATION: Venture aims to help buildings in ‘dire need’ of action

REGENERATION: Venture aims to help buildings in ‘dire need’ of action

Image: LDRS

A COUNCIL is set to join forces with a well-known Teesside developer in a fresh bid to bring languishing buildings back into use.

Middlesbrough chiefs will vote on forming a new partnership with Jomast next week in an effort to kick-start work at Gurney House, Church House, and land off Bridge Street East.

The Stockton-based firm owns both Gurney House, near the A66, and Church House, on the corner of Bedford Street and Linthorpe Road.

Reports for next Tuesday’s executive meeting show the council wants to sign a “joint venture” with the “prolific property owner” to drive money into the town – adding that the two high rises are in “dire need” of investment and action.

Officials say Jomast has historically struggled to develop plans to make key town properties commercially viable.

But they’ve pointed to “growing confidence” as a reason for the firm revisiting efforts to transform Church House into residences, and to convert Gurney House, and the former Barclays Bank building, on Albert Road, to commercial spaces.

The paper also states there are “emerging ideas” for a mixed-use development on a stretch of council-owned land on Bridge Street East, at Middlehaven.

The report adds: “Jomast Developments Ltd are keen to work closely with Middlesbrough Council to align visions, market compelling proposals for prospective tenants/investors, and explore external funding support to aid commercial viability.”

Plans to re-purpose the two imposing marks on Middlesbrough’s skyline have come and gone in the past decade.

Gurney House was leased in 1988 by the former Cleveland County Council – with millions of pounds for the empty site eventually paid off by Teesside authorities in 2008.

A £32m “Gurney Street Triangle” scheme was unveiled in 2012 with ambitions to bring a luxury hotel, a budget hotel, banqueting facilities, a casino and restaurants, and a multi-storey car park to the area.

Jomast revealed the vision after being awarded Middlesbrough’s “large casino licence”.

But it stalled – with council leaders in 2014 hearing how the economic downturn had hit the plans.

The 83-bedroom Premier Inn, on Wilson Street, did come to fruition – opening in 2018.

However, the eight-storey office building has sat largely unused since authority staff departed in 1996.

Jomast won permission to convert 15-storey Church House into 77 apartments after unveiling plans in 2012.

It lodged fresh blueprints in 2016 to refresh the vision – with proposals for 87 flats and the refurbishment of the ground floor to create two leisure units.

But the 1970s high rise behind All Saints Church still stands empty today.

The council report on the joint venture states private sector input will be “key” to Middlesbrough’s aspirations.

It adds: “Church House and Gurney House are of particular local interest and have been vacant for many years.

“They are prominent properties on Middlesbrough’s skyline and are in dire need of investment, activity and animation.

“Bringing such property back into use will aid the economic ambitions for the area and provide a major boost in raising perceptions in the area.”

Officials say the proposed partnership would “not amount to a financial relationship”, nor would it give Jomast exclusive options on any council-owned land.

However, chiefs have listed investments in Baker and Bedford Street, work on shop fronts on “Albert North”, cash spent on Jomast properties in Queen’s Square, and the Premier Inn Hotel, on Wilson Street, as past joint successes.

If agreed, the council and Jomast will “align their objectives” to bring empty properties back into economic use.

Joint efforts to find cash from bodies such as Homes England, national programmes, and the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) are also part of the plan.

Council reports also show Church House has the potential to gain financial help from Homes England.

An early wish-list for Gurney House and the nearby Buxton Street car park also indicates a “marketing approach” will be taken for the “gateway site” to show what the completed development could offer.

Leading councillors will vote on the joint venture next week at Middlesbrough Town Hall (May 11).

Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter


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