Historic post office redevelopment starts on site
The transformation of Bury St Edmunds’ former post office has now begun as part of a council’s investment in the future of its high street.
The £8.4 million redevelopment project at 17-18 Cornhill will completely demolish the rear of the building to make way for 12 flats and two commercial units, while the Victorian frontage will be retained.
Property, construction and infrastructure consultancy Perfect Circle was appointed by West Suffolk Council to provide quantity surveying, project management, and structural, civil, mechanical and electrical engineering and architectural advisory services for the scheme.
The project was procured through SCAPE Consultancy, a direct award framework that drives collaboration, efficiency, time and cost savings on construction projects.
Victoria Brambini, managing director of Perfect Circle, said: “We are delighted to be involved in the regeneration of this site and can truly appreciate the importance of the historic front of this building and its preservation for the local community.
“The frontage is iconic in Bury St Edmunds as it has been home to the town’s post office for more than 100 years, so we’re glad we can help to bring it back to economic use.
“Not only will we be working to preserve the post office’s historic front, but we will also be helping to improve the masterplanning of the town centre by joining together two of its most popular shopping destinations.”
The build will better links between the historic
town centre – around Cornhill and Buttermarket – and the contemporary arc shopping centre by widening the adjoining walkway
by more than 50% to encourage an increase in footfall between the two sites and
improving visitor experience.
Victoria continued: “The new, mixed-use development will bring many benefits to the town centre, including residential and commercial units that will act as a catalyst for community regeneration.
"It will also help to rejuvenate the local economy and aesthetically improve the overall environment of the shopping district in Bury St Edmunds, so we’re glad this is something Perfect Circle can be a part of, providing a lasting legacy for the area.”
West Suffolk Council secured £2.75 million in government investment, which provides cost certainty for the redevelopment. Managing a strict budget has been a key part of Perfect Circle’s role.
Paul Darlow, regional lead for the East of England at Perfect Circle, said: “One of the main challenges we have experienced with this project so far was creating a design that met the client’s brief, was visually cohesive with the rest of the town centre, and kept within the budget of the scheme.
“However, we have worked closely with the client’s architectural consultants to create a design that not only meets these requirements, but also perpetuates a new legacy that will stay with Bury St Edmunds for years to come.”
Councillor John Griffiths, leader of West Suffolk Council, said: “It is a challenging time for our residents, businesses and indeed the council, but we are continuing to invest in the long-term future of West Suffolk and Bury St Edmunds town centre as a place of economic, social and cultural activity.
“Furthermore, we are delivering on what people asked for when they helped to shape the vision for the town centre in the masterplan in 2017.
“Once completed this will deliver so much, including a better and wider walkway between the arc and the historic town centre, as well as a new commercial frontage onto St Andrews St South and improved access to the historic Cornhill front.”
The building, which has remained vacant since the post office relocated in November 2016, will also benefit from a new commercial frontage on St Andrews Street South to help improve the town centre.
Mark Robinson, group chief executive of SCAPE, said: “The long-term impact of Covid-19 on the high street is a key consideration for local authorities as they look to evolve their masterplans for town centres and help the nation to build back better.
“This project is a great example of a historic site being redesigned to better support the community, not only through high-quality living but also by stimulating commercial activity through improved town planning.
“West Suffolk Council, supported by Perfect Circle, should be commended for their bold vision, which will have a significant positive impact on the local economy while maintaining the historic features of the high street in Bury St Edmunds.”