Sunderland. A regional city, on the river by the sea and to many a place they never visit, negative opinions have been formed despite this. To many others it’s home, a friendly city that has been neglected for too many years. Lost industries that once bustled along the River Wear replaced with out of town business parks and little to no investment in the city centre, riverside & coast was to be seen. Tesco’s, scale models & dreadful plans passed by.

But In 2012 Sunderland Music Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust was formed bringing with them ambition to change the cultural scene in the city. With arts and culture you can inspire people and maybe they just did, a few years later Riverside Sunderland came up with a masterplan, one that involves getting people working & living in the city centre, improving footfall, creating a busy night time economy & thus encouraging businesses to open their venues here in Sunderland. Other Restoration works to old buildings have included Mackie’s Corner, The Peacock, 172-175 High Street West (Pop Recs), The Elephant Tea Rooms & The 3 Stories at the former JJB Sports building. 

Now in 2024 we have already seen huge changes. The Fire Station and Auditorium are welcoming 1000s every week in an area of the city that is now a go to destination. A smart new business district is currently rising from the ground. City Hall, completed in 2021. The Beam completed in 2019 with Maker & Faber buildings due for completion this year. New homes and apartment buildings are being built next door and a new Wear footbridge will connect the South and North banks of the river in the very near future, bringing Culture House, Holiday Inn and the Sheepfolds developments all within a short walk from one another.

And that thing about encouraging businesses into the city? The Botanist arrived at Keel Square in 2024, and now the ambitious film studios at Crown Works are due to start later this year. The plan really does work and it’s only just the beginning.


Built in the 1840s by Ralph Hutchinson, the Hutchinson's buildings were once a popular shopping area and Mackies Corner with it's beautiful clock dome was the place to meet up. Regeneration works have brought this building back to life, now home to various high quality businesses: Fat Unicorn, Bou-chique, Black Door Hairdressing & The Sweet Petite. Restoration works on the upper floors has seen further businesses move in, helping to once again make this a vibrant area.


The Edwardian Fire Station had stood empty since 1992. In 2017 the building had been beautifully restored, home to Dance City and 'The Engine Room' bar which has become a go to destination for food and drink in the city centre. In late 2021 an extension to the building was completed, the 750 capacity venue which has already attracted international artists and helped boost the night time economy, complimenting the Empire Theatre situated next door.



The Elephant Tea Rooms have been beautifully restored. The building designed by Franks Caws in Hindu gothic architecture was built in the 1880s. The regenerated landmark will be home to new commercial businesses helping to enhance further this area of the city centre.