Across East Anglia’s towns and cities, space is increasingly at a premium. Making use of existing high-rise buildings on complex brownfield sites brings big challenges but it can also bring big rewards in terms of regenerative positive impacts for the region’s urban centres.
In Norwich, Crown Place is the latest incarnation of the former Norwich Union/Aviva Towers, which have been a feature on the city’s skyline for almost 50 years. Standing empty in recent years, these vacant commercial buildings have been transformed by Crown Student Living into a modern 705-bed student accommodation complex. For R G Carter, this project had extra significance; having originally built the towers, it was an opportunity to build on the firm’s long history of construction in Norwich.
When R G Carter first built the towers in the 1970s it was a monumental undertaking. Redeveloping them decades later was an even bigger challenge, working above occupied retail spaces on a now much busier high street, up to 15m below street level and with no perimeter access. The new courtyards formed within the footprint of the existing buildings were accessible only by tower crane.
The original offices were designed to accommodate over 2,000 people and incorporated some of the latest technology at the time, including a computer and data centre built 40ft underground.
Many of the students staying at Crown Place will have more computing power in their smart phones than was available to the Norwich Union employees in the 1970s, and so the multiple levels of basement in the new refurbishment have been given other uses including a gym, music practice room, and cinema room.
In Ipswich, The Winerack is a new landmark development in the continuing regeneration of the waterfront. Previously, the concrete frame of the partially built tower block had stood empty since 2009, earning its nickname of The Winerack within the town. Having stood as a blot on the skyline for years, the purchase of the site by local developer John Howard of Ipswich Wharf Developments in 2014 marked the beginning of the building’s transformation. When the 80m tower crane arrived in May 2018, it was a welcome sight for the local community after many years in waiting.
Construction was underway, but many challenges still remained. The Winerack is located on a one-way street, in close-proximity to the riverside and local businesses. This presented a series of logistical challenges for R G Carter, which were overcome through putting the right team and processes in place, and through careful choice of trusted, local subcontractors.
Now complete, at 19 storeys high, The Winerack is one of the tallest residential buildings in Ipswich, with many of the 150 apartments offering stunning vistas across the River Orwell. There is also 5,000 square feet of commercial space at ground level.
Parking is ingeniously provided using a fully automated, 8-storey car stacking system for up to 250 cars, via a system of turntables and lifts. With bird’s eye views of their surroundings, these exceptional high-rise projects reveal how the region’s urban landscapes continue to evolve.
For R G Carter, these projects represent an opportunity to build upon its history delivering diverse, landmark projects across the region, demonstrating the firm’s passion and ability to transform and deliver innovative and modern buildings.