Major refurbishment gives historic building new lease of life

by Francesca

Work has completed on the £2.45 million restoration of a landmark Grade II Listed building at the heart of Hull city centre’s Old Town, that had previously sat empty for more than a decade.

79 Lowgate, which was built in 1881, is in a prominent position on Guildhall Road overlooking Queens Gardens, and has now been transformed into a modern new office building.

Up to 175 staff in Hull City Council’s social services teams, will now relocate there from Brunswick House on Beverley Road and other local offices, as part of the council’s ambition to bring its staff into one central area known as the Guildhall campus.

The work was carried out by Yorkshire construction firm, Hobson & Porter, which won the contract via the YORBuild2 framework and as part of the procurement process, the contractor was actively involved in developing the design prior to work starting.

Hobson & Porter has now completely refurbished and reconfigured the five-storey building, complete with new staircases, changing rooms, showers and kitchen facilities on every floor. In addition, a new contemporary steel framed glass atrium has been built linking 79 Lowgate to the adjacent Warehouse 8 building.

The building now benefits from wheelchair friendly level access and a new lift has been installed. An original spiral staircase, which is protected by a preservation order and leads up to the building’s iconic turret, has also been restored.

Energy saving initiatives include rooftop solar panels, an energy efficient heating system and intelligent LED lighting. Finally, external improvements have been carried out to both 76 and 78 Lowgate, as well as at Warehouse 8 fronting Queens Gardens.

79 Lowgate was originally the headquarters of wine and spirits merchant Samuel Mason. More recently it was used as the City Record Office by Hull City Council, but has sat empty since 2010, when the archives were transferred to the Hull History Centre.

Paul McKenzie, site manager from Hobson & Porter, who led the 12-month project, said: “The age and condition of 79 Lowgate meant we faced a number of challenges on this project. We needed to work with expert craftspeople to carefully preserve the building’s historic features, whilst combining the latest construction techniques and energy efficient technology, which made it a rare project to work on.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to repurpose a building for the 21st century, while maintaining all the architectural heritage and elegance that makes 79 Lowgate so special.

“This included everything from restoring the spindles and handrails on the spiral staircase up to the turret, which was originally a lookout for boats coming into Hull loaded with wine and spirits, through to discovering the original cobbled loading bay when we dug down at the rear of the building. We then painstakingly removed and re-laid this to create an interesting feature on the corner of Guildhall Road.

“Ultimately this project has both protected and modernised part of Hull’s history and brought one of the city’s landmarks back to life, as well as creating a state-of-the-art office environment for Hull City Council, so it’s definitely a job that everyone involved can be very proud of.”

Councillor Paul Drake-Davis, portfolio holder for economic and business regeneration at Hull City Council, said: “The investment to restore this historic building will not only make this part of the city look nicer, but it will also see council staff at the heart of the city centre. Hopefully, the restoration will give something back to the local economy that’s been hit so hard in recent years.”

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