An agent acting in the multi-million pound sale of a landmark Newcastle office building says the acquisition demonstrates the returning strength of the North-East commercial market.
Bill Lynn, director and head of agency and investment at the ES Group’s Newcastle office, partnered a local DTZ team for the sale of the city’s St Nicholas Building (pictured) to a private investor. The asking price for the Victorian property in the heart of Newcastle’s Grainger Town was £13m.
St Nicholas Building first came to market in 1997 following a £10m redevelopment project to create 64,000 sq ft of Grade A office space behind an historic facade. It currently has seven tenants occupying five floors, including the National Audit Office, American Express and Thompsons Solicitors. Between them they generate £1.17m in annual rent.
“This is a big sale for the city,” explained Lynn. “I think a sale of this nature, of such a prominent building, really underpins the general feeling of improvement in the market in Newcastle.
“Someone has had the confidence to put a lot of money into it, on the expectation of an improving market, so I think it marks a reflection of the fact that we are looking at a stronger market,” he added.
The building was originally designed by William Parnell and was completed between 1859 and 1860. More than a century later architect Alan J Smith took on the task of upgrading the building on behalf of London property magnate Harry Hyams, eventually completing the project in 1997 with funding from an urban development grant.
Meanwhile an application to revive plans for another historic Newcastle building are attracting growing opposition from Tyneside conservationist.
In 2007 city planners agreed a scheme to build a six-storey hotel on a Clayton Street site. Abandoned during the recession, the project was modified five years later when the authority granted permission for the construction of a 180-bedroom backpacker hostel.
But a third scheme, this time to transform the mid-Victorian building into part hotel and residential apartments, has been slammed by Newcastle Conservation Advisory Panel (NCAP) as “bland, indiscriminate and meaningless”.
Recognised as one of the city’s most historic sites, although unlisted the Clayton Street property is connected to a warehouse that was the 1870 offices of The Journal newspaper and, on the other side, the Grade II listed 87 Clayton Street.
The NCAP — made up of members of professional and community bodies and amenity organisations — has now advised the authority against granting the change of use application. “The proposals largely ignore the existing building’s character,” said NCAP co-ordinator, Jules Brown.
“The heritage statement is very weak,” he added. “It does not give a full historic assessment of the building or a statement of significance using the English Heritage standards.” Brown also fears the new development would have a “major impact” on the listed Old Assembly Rooms opposite.
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