Demolition work starts on Reuben Brothers’ Newcastle city centre site

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Commercial Union House is regarded as an eyesore in Newcastle city centre.

Demolition work began on Monday morning to tear down one of Newcastle city centre’s ugliest buildings.

The northern section of Pilgrim Street will be shut for seven weeks, in the latest phase of plans for HMRC to move thousands of jobs from its bases in Longbenton and Washington to a massive new site.

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The demise of the brutalist Commercial Union House offices, long regarded as one of the city’s most unattractive blocks, is part of the huge transformation that will ultimately involve more than 9,000 government workers moving into the new Pilgrim’s Quarter complex.

The Stack shipping container village on the site of the old Odeon cinema also closed down earlier this month to make way for the giant new development, which was approved by Newcastle City Council in April, and has now been partly dismantled.

Nearby Bamburgh House will also be demolished, as will the interior of the Art Deco Carliol House, while the Dex car garage has already been knocked down.

Commercial Union House was completed in 1971, built on a site formerly occupied by offices of the Commercial Union Assurance Co. Ltd in the late 19th century, and in more recent years has been rented out by artists’ collective Orbis.

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A section of Pilgrim Street in Newcastle city centre which will be closed for several weeks so demolition works can take place.A section of Pilgrim Street in Newcastle city centre which will be closed for several weeks so demolition works can take place.
A section of Pilgrim Street in Newcastle city centre which will be closed for several weeks so demolition works can take place. | Craig Connor/ChronicleLive

The eight-storey concrete block, which protrudes out over the street, has been described as “horrendous” and as having an “an adverse impact on the historic character of the street”.

It will soon be replaced by the new Pilgrim’s Quarter, which is the biggest office development in the history of the city centre and will wrap around Pilgrim Street, John Dobson Street, Market Street, and New Bridge Street West.

The Reuben Brothers-developed £155m site will stand between six and nine storeys tall and is due to be completed by 2027.

It was backed by the council’s planning committee last month, but requires a final seal of approval from the government due to heritage concerns about losing much of the grade II listed Carliol House.

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Pilgrim Street will be closed to vehicles in both directions between New Bridge Street West to Market Street until Sunday, July 3. Hood Street will also be closed, with the exception of servicing vehicles.

During the first two weeks of the demolition, pedestrians will also be unable to use a section of Pilgrim Street between between 6pm and 6am while contractors are removing the top of Commercial Union House.

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