History Repeating: Office Space Conversion Plan for Cumbria
Redeveloping historic buildings for use as flexible office space is nothing new. But is the plan to spend ┬ú10million converting Cumbria’s 14th century Curwen Hall – a classified ruin – a step too far?
Built in 1362, Curwen Hall was home to the Curwen family, the lords of the manor in Workington, until 1929. It’s got its own tower, dungeon, a haunted staircase and even its own resident ghost. It has royal ties too, if a little macabre, as it was the final refuge for Mary Queen of Scots before her execution.
The property was damaged during World War Two and shortly after, the Curwen family gave it to Workington council on condition that it became the town hall. However it fell into disrepair in the 1970s and has recently been classified as “at risk”.
Now Andrew Doyle, Chief Executive of The Land Group, intends to spend ┬ú10m redeveloping the Grade I listed building and converting it into a business centre. The plan would introduce meeting and office space, an education centre, cafe facilities and event space. Specifically, the business centre would serve as incubation space for growing companies and technologies.
“Ideally we want to make it a centre of excellence for the west Cumbria area,” said Doyle, explaining that’s it’s as much a local regeneration concept as it is a development opportunity. “It would also provide a centre people can be proud of and give some civic pride back to the town.”
The ambitious plans have now been submitted to the local authorities to await consultation.
Many ambitious renovation projects have been successfully brought to fruition over the past few decades. From airport terminals to factories, stables to manor houses, abbeys to synagogues, the serviced office industry is peppered with spectacular buildings that have been carefully converted into flexible workspace, adding charm, character and individuality to the industry.
Even yours truly got in on the act, as officebroker.com HQ is located within a Grade II listed former cotton mill.
Furthermore the idea is gaining traction in the wider commercial property industry too. Recent research from Drivers Jonas Deloitte shows that 25% of all office space projects currently underway in Central London are redevelopment works.
The business centre industry has its fair share of historic conversions and this latest scheme for Cumbria would provide a supportive, flexible location for regional SMEs, helping to foster small business growth and boost the local economy in the process. It would provide another unique and characterful addition to the business centre sector, and would help to save a classified ruin and a piece of English heritage from slipping into obscurity.
That is, unless the resident ghost has other ideas…
Find out more about some of the most striking historic buildings within the serviced office industry in the officebroker.com archives: Historic Buildings: Top Ten Sites for Serviced Offices