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Listed Buildings
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Newsletter, July 2009 (Issue 176)

Waterfront Developments

Almost (but not yet) complete Waterfront Developments

The race between City Living and Wharfside to be first to complete residential accommodation on the Waterfront has not only collapsed into the recession; it has also left a lasting legacy of un-refurbished Victorian buildings, an eye-sore that is likely to remain for some years.

There are two major developers of Northern Quay sites between Stoke Bridge and the Custom House. Wharfside are developing Cranfield's Mill including the 23 storey tower block (The Mill) and City Living are redeveloping what was Paul's malt and barley facilities. Both had Victorian buildings that, although not Listed, were considered worthy of restoration and the granted permission made it clear that any redevelopment should convert and adapt the former maltings to residential use. It was the inclusions of these older buildings that were to give the developments character and resilience.

City Living, redeveloping Regatta Quay, negotiated the detail of the restoration (and partial demolition) of the former Paul's maltings in the centre of their development. Predominantly a U -shaped building, the lower arm was along the Waterfront and the two wings ran back towards Key Street. Unfortunately the wings were too close together and could not meet the Building Regulation requirements (fire could have jumped the gap between the buildings). Furthermore the eastern wing had been converted into a grain silo, a concrete wall cast inside the brick outer skin and it was impossible to remove the concrete without destroying the brick walls. Permission was granted to knock down the eastern maltings providing both the west and the front were restored and converted. This is exactly what City Living have done and there are now residents in the apartments.

Similar difficulties affected Victorian structures on Cranfield's but the story here is different. The building complex was purchased from Allied Mills by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) who then ran a competition to find a development partner - a team who would comprehensively redevelop not only the Victorian maltings and silos but also the garage and lorry park in the middle of the gyratory road system, (using the money generated from the new build developments).

Wharfside won the competition and appointed Laing O'Rourke to construct the new buildings, including the Dance House for Dance East, and the 8, 13, 17 and 23 storey apartment blocks. They did not include the restoration of the old buildings in the Laing O'Rourke contract. Result, as Laing O'Rourke complete their building contract, the derelict silos and maltings remain in a partially demolished state, ugly and unused. The first residents have moved into the eight storey building along the College Street frontage) and they look out on to dereliction, pigeon roosts and temporary netting.

And although the two triangular sites that served the Cranfield's lorry fleet for over a century have planning permission, for social housing, live-work units, hotel and/or student flats, nothing is likely to be built in the current economic climate.

There is a clear contract between EEDA and the developer, and a planning condition that insists the entire site is developed comprehensively and contemporaneously but it is unlikely to be achieved. The money has gone, the new buildings substantially finished (but the taller units not yet fitted out) and the banks reluctant to put more capital into expensive development with little return. I suspect the partially demolished Victorian buildings will remain for some years. Hopefully not as long as Fison House in Princes Street designed by the excellent Birkin Haward. Three of the four sides around the central courtyard were completed in the 1960's, a temporary corrugated metal cladding applied awaiting further development. We're still waiting!


Almost (but not yet) complete Waterfront Developments 2

A much happier story about the completion of Waterfront Developments is Isaac's (the Isaac Lords, Merchant's House complex). Redevelopment here has been going on for some time, initially by Stuart and Gina Cooper who won a couple of Ipswich Society awards for their hard work and investments. However the time came for Stuart to retire and he sought to sell the complex, but was very selective as to whom he would sell. A number of major commercial developers were interested (mainly in demolishing everything, Listed buildings and all) but Ipswich Society member Aidan Coughlan stepped in and negotiated with the Coopers to purchase, not only the Vodka Bar (previously Cobbold's on the Quay) but also the commercial units fronting Wherry Lane (the whole complex) and his stated intentions were much as the Coopers had started. Aidan was also able to purchase the former Lloyds Bank buildings on the corner of Fore Street and Salthouse Street (the 1960's box!).

Chapman & Pleasance, the contractor working for Aidan, have just completed converting the warehouse, the malt kiln and the space that was the Vodka Bar into an excellent bar and bistro under the collective name Isaac's. There is an extension, the Orangery, a private dining room over the refurbished toilets and the very popular patisserie on the Waterfront. The courtyard is now paved through to the Cross Way and the Sale Room licensed for Civil Weddings. Further work is under way (there are some eleven Listed buildings in the complex) and Aidan has promised a glass- fronted micro brewery in the former Lloyds Bank building.

Transforming Listed buildings into modern uses is always a compromise, but they cannot stand still. They must serve the needs of today and generate an income that will go some way to meet the overheads of their operation. Installing a major kitchen with extraction flue, beer cellar and waste bin storage discreetly into the middle of the complex has worked, none of the modern requirements being obvious to the drinkers and diners, or to the promenaders who now stroll in their droves along the Waterfront on sunny Sunday afternoons. I recommend a visit.


    Front cover of issue 176 Cover, issue 176

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