Work has started on a much-loved Sunderland building, ahead of its expected sale later this summer.
Preliminary work is underway on the old Simpson Street school, which will pave the way for the regeneration of the 1800s building, which currently stands empty.
BDN, a North East architectural and structural engineering business that is in the process of acquiring the building and its surrounding grounds from Sunderland City Council, is undertaking a range of strip-out work on the building.
That will clear the way for a full programme of renovation when the sale concludes, expected to happen during July.
The first stage of the development, which is under licence from Sunderland City Council, will see repairs carried out to the roof of the building and ensure there is no further weather damage caused following a blaze earlier this year that left the Deptford building exposed to the elements.
It is understood that work will continue over the next month, as final legal agreements are drawn up to conclude the sale of the premises.
Plans to transform the site into a large commercial office building and a number of luxury apartments were revealed in March, with a planning application set to be determined within the next month.
Despite the lockdown, the sale has been pushing ahead, and – if planning approval is granted – BDN will move on with major renovation work that will start with the conversion of a section of the building into an office space and conclude with the creation of stunning one and two-bedroom apartments.
Joss Ryan, an architect from Durham-headquartered BDN, which serves clients across the UK, said: “We’re delighted to be on-site and starting work that will ensure that this beautiful building is preserved and protected, ahead of work to give it a new lease of life.
“We hope that – subject to planning approval – our presence on-site will be the start of a much bigger programme that will deliver a stunning new residential offer for the city.”
Designs revealed earlier this year showed beautifully designed luxury apartments, some with a mezzanine floor. The eight new loft-style dwellings should be complete by late summer 2021.
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We are delighted to see activity on the site of Simpson Street school. It’s a significant step forward and means that – subject to planning – this building can very quickly be brought back to life.
“The strength of feeling when the building went up in flames earlier this year showed what an unpolished gem the school is, and I very much look forward to seeing it get a new lease of life under BDN’s guardianship.”