A BUILDING firm has put the finishing touches to the creation of one of the region’s most important cultural attractions and is now looking forward to a healthy 2009 after setting up a dedicated North East arm.
Kier North East has just completed a £11.5m contract to refurbish Newcastle’s Hancock Museum, which will reopen in May as the Great North Museum.
The museum, which celebrates 500 million years of evolution, proved a major challenge because of its Grade II listed building status and meant the team had to be painstakingly careful in their approach.
The project included the construction of an extension to the rear, creating 11 new galleries with 5,500sq metres of display area for the museum’s priceless collections.
Kier also had to use building materials in keeping with its 19th Century roots, including lime and horse hair in the plaster and pure lead tiling on the roof.
The £26m museum is now being filled with all manner of weird and wonderful exhibits, with highlights including a large interactive model of Hadrian’s Wall, mummies from Ancient Egypt and a life-size T Rex dinosaur skeleton.
It is not the first time Kier has worked on one of the North East’s historical sites, having led major refurbishment work at Wallington Hall in Northumberland, on an estate dating from 1475.
Kier North East regional director Steve Flint said: “We are proud to have been associated with delivering such a prestigious building for the North East.
“I know the public will be delighted with what they see and will enjoy the building and its wonderful exhibitions for many years to come.”
Responding to a strong market in the North East, the Bedfordshire Kier group recently rebranded its North East operations and is confident of its future.
Kier North East, which was formerly part of Kier Northern, has managed to secure a number of large contracts in the region, including the construction of two education academies in Hartlepool on Teesside and Ashington, Northumberland, with a combined value of £120m.
However, it has not been unaffected by the recession, with directors saying that its annual turnover of £100m for the North East has seen a drop and that they have been forced to make redundant about 20 workers from its 200-strong workforce in the region.
However, it is currently in the frame for a £100m contract to build homes for elderly people in North Tyneside.