A TOWERING reminder of Burton’s heritage, 107 Station Street’s grandeur is testament to the power and riches of the 19th century brewing barons who ran the town.
Still blessed with many of its original features and occupying 200,000 square feet, the historic building’s future has been in doubt after its owners, Cambridge Optima, went into administration. Grand plans to reinvent the building as a business hub, complete with an art gallery and public spaces, looked to have fallen by the wayside, especially after dangerous asbestos was revealed.
Cambridge Optima was subsequently fined nearly £80,000 after workers were potentially exposed to the deadly dust during the renovation work.
The future looked bleak for 107 but a London-based developer is in the process of buying the building and, after contracts are exchanged on September 1, will invest up to £6 million in completing the refurbishment and restoring the building to its full glory.
The plans will see the expansion of the gallery ‘creating the biggest white wall art space in the county’, a restaurant, café, facilities for community groups and conferences and space for arts and music festivals. The massive office space could also soon be let with a third being earmarked for NHS, county council and social service use. In total, 107 could house 1,500 workers.
A crèche, hotel and gym are possibilities for the long-term future.
There are also plans to expand the existing holistic centre and add a beauty treatment area.
The overall aim will be for a creative hub for Burton that will serve both the business and artistic communities.
The identity of the new owners has not yet been revealed. But we know that the firm is based in London, has a broad range of developments and receives funding from China. We also know that Tracy Hill will be 107’s operations manager.
She says: “This could easily have ended up being a derelict building which could have been lost. That would have been a tragedy as this is the largest historic brewery building that remains in the town from that era. There are still Victorian buildings from that period which are now part of Molson Coors but they are on a much smaller scale. It would have been a shame to lose that heritage as well as an important space that can be used to benefit Burton.”
Optima bought the building at auction in 2002, outbidding Burton-based property developer Stan Clarke and, at first, the Punch and Spirit groups leased office space but when they moved out two and half years ago ambitious refurbishment plans began.
The metal loading bay which had been placed on the side of the building was taken away.
Tracy says: “That had spoilt an architecturally beautiful building and had seen a lot of the windows bricked up. So it was stripped back to reveal the original features.
“Optima’s heart was in the right place as far as this building is concerned. They wanted to create a complex making the most of the original features but putting a contemporary twist on them. You can tell they were on the right lines because they won a Civic Society design award.”
Tracy was events manager for Optima and started the art gallery during that time. Originally works were displayed in the corridors and Tracy identified a need in the creative community for a gallery space. She developed the idea with help of artist Alistair Kennedy and hosted the Pint Festival last year.
She says: “Alistair recognised that it could easily be developed to be the largest white wall gallery in the county.”
Tracy knew they were on the right lines when a small exhibition by three local artists saw 300 people turn up for the opening.
“We expected no more than 150 people so we thought ‘wow’. It created a lot of interest and the artists sold work – more than 300 people coming to anything in Burton is great but coming to an art exhibition! Now, the message I have from the new owners is that the art gallery will continue as it brings people through the door and creates a buzz around 107.
Tracy admits that there’s a lot to do to bring 107 back to life, including removing the asbestos.
“There are some things left by Optima that need clearing up,” she says. “At the moment, we have Burton Environmental Services on site and they have started dealing with all the problems and we will soon have a clear air certificate. We have had a 400-page asbestos report commissioned and know what’s in here. Some of it will be left, enclosed, marked and monitored but the important thing is that the right people are being paid to do it and its being done by the book. Even before the new developer has taken over on September 1 they are aiming to start on the right foot.
“They are also committed to keeping the community aspect of the building, so that people like the University of the Third Age, who have a storytelling group who use the facilities, will be able to continue.
“Going forward we want to see arts and music festivals here. We want to get the message across that 107 will be an events space, a community space and an office space. We will be putting in a business hub and a virtual office to help develop small businesses. It’s all been well thought through.
“The aim is to help Burton raise its profile. There’s a feeling that the town is on the up, especially since St George’s Park opened.
“It’s really exciting for Burton, where 107 is going.”