Restoration of former Observer building given boost as fundraiser extended

The former Observer building in Cambridge Road, Hastings. Picture: Beth Woolf
The former Observer building in Cambridge Road, Hastings. Picture: Beth Woolf

A Crowdfunder campaign to help restore the former Hastings Observer building has been extended.

The building, which was purchased by local developer White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures on February 14, is undergoing its first structural repair for more than 30 years.

Image by John Cole, Observer Building Four Lenses documentary project

Image by John Cole, Observer Building Four Lenses documentary project

A team of contractors has been brought in to repair areas of damage, remove rust and replace the concrete cover.

These renovations will make two floors ready for artists, makers and entrepreneurs to begin tenancies late this summer.

The Observer Building Project Team has been running a Crowdfunder campaign to raise £10,000 which has recently been extended to June 1.

Beth Woolf, joint project manager, said: “Our target might look like a drop in the ocean for the building works, but every contribution does make a difference to what we can do long-term.

“Equally important is the number of supporters that sign up to the campaign. This helps us show potential funders just what the building means to the people of Hastings.”

The Observer Building was built in 1924 for FJ Parsons as home to the Observer newspaper offices and printworks.

Behind the ornate decorative façade, the internal structure was made of concrete – both a fashionable material for post WWI modernist architecture and a practical solution to accommodate heavy-weight printing machinery on an industrial scale.

The current repair work is focusing on the internal concrete structure which has suffered over the past 30 years.

David Spooner, the construction project manager, said: “As you would expect the building was constructed with a very high strength.

“Unfortunately, having been empty for 34 years with a leaking roof, water has got in to the concrete and caused the reinforcement to rust.

“To restore the structural integrity and bring the much-loved building back to its full strength, we are repairing some 750 areas of damage, removing the rust and replacing the concrete cover.”

A specialist structural repair contractor, Structural Renovations Limited has been brought in to carry out the work overseen by the team of local professional contractors including David Spooner, Hastings Building Services (main contractor), Roger Bunney (Structural Engineer) and John Page (Quantity Surveyor).

Craig Farrand, managing director, said: “Structural Renovations Limited are currently repairing the concrete and applying protective coatings to the internal areas of the Observer Building, which is due to be completed in July this year.

“We are pleased to be involved in this worthwhile and important community project, which can only benefit residents and visitors to the town.”

Hastings Building Services have been working alongside the concrete repairs team to ensure that the building remains watertight and the spaces are safe and comfortable. Together, these renovations will make two floors ready for artists, makers and entrepreneurs to begin tenancies late this summer.

According to the project team, some of the graffiti will be damaged during the repair process.

The project team plans to invite artists back to create new works of art on the restored walls to contribute to the shaping of the space for the future.

The concrete repairs will take approximately 8,000 working hours over a four-month period to finish due to the extent of the repairs and the 5,000 square metres of concrete involved.

To find out more about the project, visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-observer-building.

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