An iconic piece of Preston’s history is now at the forefront of the city’s next stage of regeneration.
The former EH Booths headquarters, tearoom and warehouses in Glovers Court, Preston, is undergoing a £2.5m renovation, which developers say will kick start a new ‘leisure quarter’ for the city.
READ MORE>>> Take a look around one of the luxury flats
The building, complete with a bridge linking the two sites, is being transformed into 14 luxury apartments, with extensive work underway to save and restore key features of the buildings past.
Developers Preston-based TSS Property Ltd, said: “It’s the first high street living concept in Preston. We’re kickstarting it and setting the benchmark for luxury.
“We’ve over-specced the apartments, we’re really going the extra mile, because we’re perfectionists and we love the building.”
He added: “We’ve had this building for 10 years. Waterstones had three floors, with the former tea room just used for storage. It was all leaking and in a bad way.
“When the lease renewal came up, I thought, why don’t we try this new concept? It’s such an iconic building and it’s going to waste.”
Fifty per cent of the apartments have already sold off-plan, all to be owner-occupied.
The spokesman added: “We’ve not been targeting a specific group, but we’ve had a lot of interest from young professionals and a lot of people from UCLan, such as dentists and professors.
“We’ve also got some people who want to relocate from London and there’s even a couple from New York interested in one of the apartments in the tearoom, because it’s unique.”
Special attention is being paid to the former tearoom, a listed building, which was built in 1859, and became the home of Booths in 1867 when they relocated from their original premises at the Market Place.
The building was extended towards Glovers Court in 1915 and it became one of Preston’s most prestigious grocery stores, with a silver service café above the ground floor.
The original ornate ceiling mouldings, fireplaces, panelling and beams are being restored, to fit alongside high-end, modern fittings.
There are bluetooth speakers in the ceiling, a fully-electric heating system, fingerprint recognition to get into the flats, full CCTV in communal areas and iPad style video panels by the front door to see who is coming in.
The project has a special meaning for project manager Ezphia Rennock, whose grandparents held their wedding reception in the tearoom in the 1950s.
He said: “They love what we’re doing, the whole family does. It was the place to be in Preston, and we want to turn it back into that.
“It means a lot to us. On building sites its usually a case of going to work, but it’s a bit different, this place.
“It’s a massive job, and it can be overwhelming if you don’t take it day-by-day. Changes are happening day-by-day and we’re really proud of what we’ve done so far.”
Crystal chandeliers are to be installed in marbled foyers, bathrooms feature Italian sanitary wear, kitchen tiles have been specially imported from Spain and rotten windows have been replaced with bespoke double-glazed units costing £1,000 each - and 57 are needed.
The iconic bridge over Glovers Court has been incorporated into the show apartment, as a games room. The clock has been restored and will soon be working once more.
“We’ve gone all-out, it’s five star hotel spec”, said the spokesman for TSS.
“Everything has been thought-out and future-proofed, even down to where plug sockets go. We spent three days debating how a step should look, and which skirting boards to use - we want attention to detail.
“Every apartment has its own features - exposed steel, beams, brick, old fire places.
“We don’t want to cover it up, this is an old building and that’s all part of the interest, the story.”
The company is commited to the regeneration of Preston, with much of its investment in city centre retail.
The spokesman added: “In the past three years, interest in Preston has grown massively, there seems to be a real buzz about the area.
“I think people see it as a secondary city, with key transport links to places like London and Manchester, and that’s only going to improve with the HS2 rail link coming.
“Preston has just been named as the most improved city, and people can see this.
“I think there’s an emerging leisure quarter, with the Guild Hall, Miller Arcade and Shankley Hotel.
“Most of our investment is in Preston, in retail units, so we want to see the city do well.”
Ezphia added: “You only have to look around and you can see Preston is busier.
“People are investing in the city, old buildings are being brought back to life, such as the old church being turned into a bistro and Plau opening in an old building in Friargate.
“There’s lots of redevelopment, and when people live in an area, and it becomes home, they take care of it and things like crime falls.
“I see Preston as how Manchester was six or seven years ago, only smaller.”
The 12-month project is half-way to completion, currently ahead of schedule. Prices range from £135,000 to £185,000.