New chapter for "landmark" former bookshop as plans revealed for transformation

A former Sunderland bookshop is set to be transformed into an independent arts and culture venue.

The “landmark” Hills Bookshop building, at Waterloo Place, is on track to be converted into a mixed-use facility by the team behind Norfolk Street Arts.

The 5,600 sq ft bookstore closed in 2006 after more than 150 years of trading, and will soon be host to an independent cafe and bookshop, as well as exhibition and gallery space, and community workshop facilities.

The Norfolk Street Arts team were assisted in the purchase of the site by commercial property legal advice from Muckle LLP and financial support from NatWest, while advisers at Lofthouse and Partners structured the deal.

The team is aiming to open the newly refurbished facility on Christmas Eve 2021.

Mark Burns Cassell, Norfolk Street Arts co-director, commented: “We are thrilled to be taking over this fantastic and historic building to breathe new life into its walls once again.

“Hills Bookshop was home to so many fond memories and we’re aiming to build on this rich history by lovingly restoring and converting this disused space into an independent arts centre in the heart of the city.

“We have been overwhelmed by the support and interest in the project, which stands to boost our cultural economy by supporting artists and bringing increased vibrancy and creativity to our city’s arts scene.

“We hope that, in time, our new venture will become as treasured and well used as the wonderful former bookstore was in its prime.”

Giles McCourt, associate solicitor and real estate expert at Muckle LLP, said: “I have fond childhood memories of visiting Hills Bookshop with my family and it’s fantastic to see this exciting new venture get off the ground.

“Mark and Vincent [co-directors] have the perfect blend of passion, experience and expertise and we wish them every success with the project.

“Arts and cultural activities are so important for our personal wellbeing and it will be great to see how this redevelopment enhances the North East’s already excellent reputation in this area.”

Mario Jaconelli, Lofthouse and Partners director, added: “We have managed this substantial property for almost 15 years and in that period, it’s had several occupiers.

“My clients felt the time was right to sell the freehold and we are encouraged that the new owners plan to invest in the building which will see the property once again fully occupied which can only be to the benefit of the city and its fast growing art and cultural sector.”