Iconic workshop reborn

The multi-million-pound conversion of an historic engineer’s workshop into a centre for businesses has been completed in Newcastle.

The Pattern Shop, behind Central Station, is where Robert Stephenson built and exported steam engines all around the world putting it at the heart of the industrial revolution in the late 1800s.

When it fell empty in 2008, the Grade 2 Listed structure slowly became derelict until Newcastle City Council and its development partner igloo Regeneration with Thriving Investments (part of the Places for People group) stepped in in 2020 with exciting plans to bring it back to life as a business centre creating employment and boosting the city’s economy.

The completion is the culmination of a difficult two-year period which overcame a pandemic, a change of contractor when the original contractor went bust and rampant inflation which pushed the cost of building materials through the roof.

Funding from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership to tackle the building’s structural deterioration and from Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions have been critical to the project’s success.

There’s been early interest from businesses keen to be associated with a low energy, low carbon building of historical importance which today boasts best-in-class sustainable technology and leading telecommunications connectivity.

The building is in a regeneration area that it is hoped will help transform the city’s fortunes.

Cabinet member for a Thriving City and Inclusive Economy, Cllr Alex Hay, said: “I am delighted that The Pattern Shop project is now complete. It’s wonderful to see a building so important to Newcastle’s history being reborn for clean, green businesses that will create the next generation of good quality jobs.

“This complements the council’s priority to create an economy in Newcastle that is inclusive, so everyone has the opportunity to make something of their lives and have a stake in the city’s success.

“The project has had its fair share of challenges, but this fascinating building is testament to the determination and hard work of the council and its partners bringing it back to life and ensuring it continues to be a place for pioneers and innovators for the next 100 years.”

The Pattern Shop has been converted sympathetically with emphasis on retaining as many original features as possible, including the cast iron pillars in the Engine Hall, large arched windows, floorboards, and roof timbers which date back to Stephenson himself.

Preserving key features has also ensured that 98% of waste from the conversion works has been diverted from landfill.

The total cost of the project is £8.7m, and when fully occupied the 32,367 sq ft building is expected to house 200 workers. Parts of the building have views of the Tyne bridge and river, and in time will be landscaped.

Joe Broadley, Development Director at igloo Regeneration said: “Newcastle City Council and the project team have done a great job of keeping The Pattern Shop project on track and it’s testament to their tenacity and commitment to the partnership that we’re seeing this iconic building reach completion.

“The Pattern Shop is the first of a collection of buildings and connecting spaces that we are delivering within the Stephenson Quarter, in partnership with the council. Our reputation has been forged by creating places that are good for people, great for the environment and local communities and The Pattern Shop builds on our work over many years in the North East, including award-winning developments in Ouseburn which is now a buzzing and beautiful place.

“We’re looking forward to the whole neighbourhood surrounding The Pattern Shop once again thriving in a beautiful setting worthy of the pioneers who first put the place on the map.”

Regional Managing Director Garry Hope of Robertson Construction North East, who delivered the project, said: “Repurposing and regenerating The Pattern Shop is testimony to the Council and igloo’s commitment to preserving and reinvigorating a part of the city so important in the industrial revolution. The building now stands ready to fuel innovation and economic growth for generations to come.

“The project presented the Council and igloo with challenges which we have been able to address.

“We’ve worked hard to preserve original features in the building while making sure it meets the needs of modern-day users. In addition to the Grade A office benefiting the city, we also delivered a range of long-lasting social value initiatives as part of the project.

“We look forward to the next line of innovators and creatives who will use this historical space.”

The Pattern Shop sits on 4.3 acres of brownfield land within the Stephenson Quarter behind the Central Station. The Quarter, which is made of various plots of land, is a much sought after regeneration area which is being developed with exciting new buildings which when complete will create 2,000 jobs.

With riverside views and proximity to the Central Station, the site has great strategic value.

A specialist engineering company has already expressed an interest in locating in The Pattern Shop along with a number of small to medium-sized enterprises from the digital and creative sectors.

A special event aimed at businesses interested in locating to The Pattern Shop is expected in May.