Who would have thought it. 35 years ago I was involved in the acquisition of an office building in Abingdon, on behalf of Oxfordshire County Council and today that very same building is now owned by my business partner and me.
My first job, straight out of school, was as a trainee surveyor in the Property Department to Oxfordshire County Council. The work was very varied and gave me a good grounding in a profession that has treated me well, and of all the jobs I became involved in I remember driving into the courtyard of 1 – 3 Ock Street, Abingdon as if it were yesterday. The County were acquiring the building for occupation by the Probation Service, which at the time was a County function, but now, my business partner and I have bought the building from The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. We completed on the purchase two weeks ago.
Yet buying the building is probably the easy bit. The challenge now is to breathe new life into a beautiful building that has not seen much love and affection for many a year. The building is late Georgian and would have originally been built by a local merchant or professional as a fine residence with substantial grounds. Over the prevailing years the building has been extended, on occasions with not much care or thought, whilst the gardens have slowly been lost to surrounding development. But what we have now is nonetheless a fine well-built property that has since been converted to commercial use, with a rear courtyard, accessed under the existing building, that provides parking for 6 – 7 cars. Extending to approximately 2,500 sq ft, the building is Grade 2 listed and is situated in a Conservation Area. So there is much to think about and consider.
Our plans are to restore the building to its former glory, returning some of its original features, as well as rendering the building “fit for purpose” as an office building. This needs to be done with sensitivity whilst recognising that merging old and new, or modern if you prefer, can be difficult to achieve, but a very successful fusion if you can get it right. We intend to get it right, but appreciate that to achieve that involves the co-operation of the architect, planners, conservation officer and of course the owners.
The layout plans are well advanced, we have had an initial meeting with the Conservation Officer and the planning application should be submitted next week. Whilst the application is being determined we will finalize the specification and go out to competitive tender. We hope to have the builders in within 2 – 3 months, and for the building to be available for occupation before the end of the year. It will be tight.
I intend to post regularly on the rebirth of this building, so why not “tag” this blog and keep up with its progress.