Case study – Commerce House

Overview

Built in 1872 for the North Eastern Banking Company, Commerce House is an architecturally and historically important building with Grade II listing. It has a fabulously ornate interior and is located in a conservation area within Middlesbrough’s historic quarter. However parts of the building had fallen into disuse and its owners were looking to redevelop it into more appropriate retail and office space.

The Challenge

The redevelopment needed to retain the valuable interior features of the building, including a lift dating from the 1920s. There were also significant constraints on how signage could be applied to the exterior.

The owner was concerned that the complexity and cost of meeting demands from heritage and planning officials might threaten the viability of the entire project.

The Solution

We revisited the client’s requirements and aspirations for the building, in particular with relation to circulation, access and fire protection. We challenged them to consider a broader specification that would give their designer more flexibility to accommodate the listed features of the building.

From this point we worked informally with heritage and planning officials to understand the constraints of the building and to work out where there might be opportunities for compromise.

We combined these fresh insights with knowledge of other cases and worked with the client’s designers to create a well considered, credible planning application that we were confident would be accepted without protracted negotiations.

Results

The client’s planning application was accepted, including internal modifications and adaptations to doors, walls, lighting, signage, lifts and other historic features.

In 2016 work began to change the use of the ground floor banking hall to a coffee shop, modernise the offices on the first and second floor and refurbish the former bank manager’s flat into a luxury penthouse apartment.

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