Leisure, care and property company Gainford Group has bought prime Newcastle building Milburn House office block in a multimillion-pound acquisition. The business already owns and operates a number of landmark buildings on Tyneside including The Vermont, The County Hotel, Avieka and Livello, with proposals currently with city planners to regenerate the former Premier Inn hotel on New Bridge Street.
Now the company has swooped for Dean Street’s historic Milburn House for an undisclosed sum, which it said makes a strong addition to its growing portfolio and in-keeping with its mission to acquire and restore regional heritage properties. The group’s director Imran Khaliq said the company was looking forward to investing in the huge building, which is home to a range of businesses including Newcastle BID company NE1 Ltd, Burnetts Solicitors, Wilson Accountants, Jump digital agency, as well as bars and restaurants including Colonel Porter’s, Kaltur and El Torrero.
Gainford Group said it is giving careful consideration to future plans for the building. Mr Khaliq said: “We’re delighted to have bought Milburn House. Our plan is to continue to retain what is there and to work with the tenants who are there, such as NE1, and we are working out plans for the building. The plan is to do some redevelopment work to enhance what’s there, certainly. “Beyond that, it’s too early to say what else we could do - we will obviously want to talk to the council too. The building offers so many opportunities and it already lends itself to being used in so many ways, with all the mix of businesses, restaurants and bars based there.As we already own and operate hotels people may think that is our plan, but a hotel wouldn’t be our first choice. It’s not the first option but I wouldn’t rule it out.”
Milburn House opened in 1905 following a five-year, complex construction programme as it was built on the site of a collection of buildings that had been ravaged by a huge fire in 1900. The building stretches between the city’s cathedral and the castle keep, and its construction caused controversy – engraver Thomas Bewick’s former workshop in St Nicholas churchyard was among the buildings that had to be demolished to make way for the new structure.
It was funded by the Milburn family, which had made its money from coal and shipping, through a contract worth £130,000, based on designs by architects Oliver, Leeson and Wood. Taking in the slopes of Dean Street and The Side, the building has six-storeys at its highest point, stands 300ft on The Side, 160ft on Dean Street and 200ft in St Nicholas Churchyard and has several entrances at different levels.
When it first opened it housed 185 companies, most of which were involved in shipping and coal, and its maritime heritage has been maintained through a number of features around the building, as well as through its floor layout, with North and South wings, and alphabetical floors, from A at the top to F at the bottom.
Mr Khaliq added: “It’s a beautiful building which has so much character and it’s an integral part of the city’s heritage, so for us it’s important that we retain all the characteristics and come up with a plan. Even though these are difficult times, and the city has been through its ups and downs, Gainford is still investing in the city.”