The £1.1 million refurbishment of the Grade II listed building Chirton House in Byker is underway thanks to investment from the landlord Byker Community Trust (BCT) and Newcastle City Council.
Working with contractors Gentoo Construction, BCT appointed the job at the start of the year to create 16 modern 1 and 2 bedroom apartments from the existing care home.
Jill Haley, Chief Executive of the BCT said: “A key aim of BCT is to add value to the community and wider neighbourhood through its investment on the estate. Unemployment is high here and providing much needed employment and training opportunities is a priority for BCT.
“As part of the tendering process we asked Gentoo to demonstrate what added value and economic gain they could bring to the Byker community and its wider neighbourhood through their contractual agreement with us. Equally as important with this contract was that Gentoo’s design team were able to demonstrate their experience of adapting historic sites to modern needs whilst respecting and retaining their special interest.
“The design of the new self-contained apartments has been able to preserve the character and appearance of the existing Grade ll* listed building. We have worked alongside English Heritage and have restricted any non-essential changes to the outward appearance of the building, whilst incorporating the Byker design elements that make the properties in the area so unique and instantly recognisable.”
Managing Director of Gentoo Construction Allan Thompson said: “We are delighted to get started on site, creating high quality sustainable housing where people want to live. We’re also thrilled to be offering some local employment opportunities to the residents of Byker throughout the build process.”
Gentoo Construction has worked closely with BCT, looking for employment opportunities suitable for local unemployed people. As a result of this two Byker residents have been appointed as general construction employees.
Mark Ford, who currently volunteers in local community projects in the area and has been appointed as an employee on site, said: “I’m really looking forward to working with Gentoo Construction in a manual role as my most recent jobs have been in retail which haven’t given me a great deal of job satisfaction.”
Deputy Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Marion Talbot, said: “The city council has worked very closely with the Byker Community Trust to ensure that the refurbishment of Chirton House into affordable housing meets the needs of local residents and is in-keeping with the look and feel of the local neighbourhood.
“Chirton House was a former council building which had become redundant. Refurbishing it has prevented it from becoming an eyesore and enabled it to provide housing for older people and those with disabilities who have lived in the community and can continue to do so as their housing needs have changed.
“The creation of new jobs is critical to the health of our local economy, so it’s particularly pleasing when those job opportunities go to local people helping local families - as in the refurbishment of this local landmark.
“The city council has made a significant investment in this project as we recognise it will enhance the housing offer in the Byker community, and we look forward to it opening next year.”