Grimsby Gherkin? Grand plan for iconic building in town centre
A MAJOR land deal that could see a Grimsby Gherkin realised on a prime town centre site has been completed.
Property investor and developer John Sills wants to create a scaled-down version of the architecturally-acclaimed modern masterpiece for his home town.
And having snapped up the final piece of a land jigsaw overlooking the Victoria Street junction with Peaks Parkway, he hopes to push on with his plans once market conditions improve.
Spring Church, more recently known as the Graphic Press building on Upper Burgess Street, has been bought in a deal worth several hundred thousands of pounds, paving the way for his grand plan that could be worth many millions.
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Mr Sills, who has a portfolio of commercial property in North East Lincolnshire, said: "I have been interested in buying it for several years, so I am absolutely delighted to have got it at last.
"In the medium term it would be nice to put something of an iconic landmark building there. It is early days, but I am thinking of a building with a lot of round elements to it. Something even inspired by The Gherkin in the City of London.
"That is on a much bigger site, but something similar in shape and similar in proportions. I may perhaps have to think of another vegetable!
"I think The Gherkin is one of the most beautiful modern buildings in the country, if not the world.
"The site we have bought is very, very different, but there are several buildings around that are quite high, such as the telephone exchange and the silo of Victoria Mills. Whatever we put in it needs to be quite a tall iconic building."
Mr Sills' Wellow Publications was behind the neighbouring Burgess Court, and he believes this would "complement it in many ways".
Built on the former Baptist Tabernacle, the five-storey building, completed in 2008, features 2,000 sq ft of commercial space on the ground floor, with 18 apartments above. Since then he has acquired a triangle of land from pub operator Mitchells and Butler, behind the Duke of Wellington, which he sees as ideal for car parking for any future development.
Happy to bide his time, and keen to rent out the existing building as affordable office space as he keeps an eye on the economy and gives more thought to his huge proposal, Mr Sills said he would push on if an appropriate tenant came forward. Previous projects have seen him sell off residential aspects while retaining commercial elements.
Spring Church has been sold by Waltons Publications, having initially been on the market for £400,000.
Lawrence Brown, of Scotts, has been appointed agent going forward. He said: "We have a two-stage plan. The first stage is to offer the premises to let immediately on a relatively short term basis, be it for offices or storage accommodation.
"In the longer term we are looking at a development on there with the aim being to build some sort of iconic building at that junction, with inspiration taken from the fact it sits at the hub and major focal point of Grimsby town centre.
"John absolutely loves The Gherkin, and while we are not for one minute suggesting it would be as big, it would be something suitable for the site, something instantly recognisable."
Offices, a hotel and restaurant are potential uses.
"We are getting a team together with us as agents, and getting architects involved too. It needs to be something that is cutting edge, that meets the needs of occupiers and also grows to be appreciated by the population of Grimsby and North East Lincolnshire."