VIDEO: Work starts to revamp former Free Press offices

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Work has got underway to transform the former offices of the Doncaster Free Press into flats, shops and a gym.

Builders have moved in to gut the Sunny Bar building which was home to this newspaper for 89 years until our departure in January last year.

The former Doncaster Free Press newsroom in Sunny Bar.

The former Doncaster Free Press newsroom in Sunny Bar.

Work on the four storey red-brick building, which dates from 1902, is due to be completed by June.

Dan Pattrick, operations manager for developers Belgray, said: “We are passionate and have plenty of ideas of what we want to achieve here. This is a beautiful old building and we are retaining as many of the old features as possibile but also giving the building a modern feel.”

Belgray was given planning permission to develop the offices last year following the departure of the Free Press to new offices on the corner of Cleveland Street and Printing Office Street.

The basement, which was formerly used as storage cellars, will be converted into lounges, cinema room and a gym for residents.

The ground floor will be home to five retail units while the first and second floors will each contain seven flats and communal kitchen areas.

The accommodation will be made available to those on lower incomes.

Added Mr Pattrick: “The company’s aim is to provide good, clean affordable housing for lower income families. This is a unique challenge and a big development for us.”

The shop units will also be offered to traders at reasonable rates to encourage business to flourish.

He added: “The whole building is being equipped locally for local people to use. The shops will be all fitted out ready for businesses to move into.”

He said that work on stripping out and refurbishing the building would continue over the coming months with the aim of residents moving in by June.

And although he was unable to put a price on the development, Mr Pattrick said that a “substantial amount” was being investigated in the Sunny Bar project.

He added that 20 skips worth of rubbish and debris had been stripped out of the building which also housed a chemist and cafe in decades gone by.

“This is the jewel in our crown,” he said. “There will be work done to tidy up the front of the building but it will look and remain as it always has done. It is a well known Doncaster building in a great position overlooking the market.

“We are very excited about this project.”

The very first edition of the Free Press was published at Sunny Bar on June 18, 1925 by printer Dickie Crowther. The newspaper maintained a presence there up until January last year with reporters and advertising teams based there although the paper was printed elsewhere.

Anyone interested in moving into the building - either residential or retail - should email info.belgray@gmail.com for further details.