Sunderland City Hall

Regenerating areas of historical interest:
Case studies from around the North East

The North East is known for its long and diverse history. From Roman fortresses to Victorian stately homes, beach front castles to civic buildings, the region has much to offer for any budding historian.

Not got time to read the full article? Download our PDF report here.


This heritage also makes the North East an exciting place to live and work, with a number of regeneration and development projects tapping into this in their placemaking and positioning.

Here we look at three examples of regeneration projects that build on the history and heritage of each place, reflecting on the industrial legacy of the region while creating innovative spaces for the businesses and communities that call the development home.

Sunderland Riverside Park

Stephenson Works

Named after the pioneering Robert Stephenson & Co. Locomotive Works, the site on which the development sits, Stephenson Works marks an exciting new chapter in Newcastle’s industrial history.

This mixed-use scheme, currently under construction, will combine 100,000 sq ft of commercial space with 10,000 sq ft of retail space, along with the refurbishment of up to 39,000 sq ft of heritage buildings.

Located next to Newcastle’s mainline rail station, Stephenson Works emphasises the North East’s place at the forefront of the railway revolution, and how local engineers like George and Robert Stephenson ushered in the modern age.

The naming of The Pioneer Newcastle, one of the main buildings of the project, clearly nods to the Stephensons. Construction and design around the site is focused on restoring the unique character of the remaining historic buildings, emphasising the industrial legacy of the site and how it has fostered entrepreneurship in Newcastle for hundreds of years.

This restoration is accompanied by sustainable and eye-catching design, in order to create a site that builds on the city’s industrial legacy, while delivering the entrepreneurial spirit, innovation and creative space to foster the next generation of pioneers.

Stephenson Works

Riverside Sunderland

Riverside Sunderland is one of the most ambitious regeneration projects Sunderland has ever seen, developing 1,000 sustainable new homes and 1 million square ft of commercial space. The project is reinventing the industrial heart of the city, making central Sunderland a dynamic and diverse place to live, work and play.

Developed on the site of the former Vaux Brewery, local people have fond memories of this part of Sunderland, memories that have been honoured with public art harking back to the city’s past.

A life-sized statue of the iconic dray horses that would have once pulled carts with barrels of Vaux beer has been created by local sculptor Ray Lonsdale, and now sits on the corner of Keel Square, the public space at the heart of Riverside Sunderland.

The housing created as part of the Riverside Sunderland development has a clear nod to the history of the city, with two of the developments - Vaux and Sheepfolds – named after the historical sites on which they sit.

The old stable block at Sheepfolds, a Grade II-listed building which was once used to house working horses from the former North Eastern Railway Co, and its surrounding buildings are being brought back to life in a project masterminded by architecture and engineering firm Building Design Northern (BDN).

The buildings, which date back to 1883, were more recently used for car storage but had fallen into a state of disrepair.

Now a £2m refurbishment and rebuilding programme will see the stables and surrounding buildings reopen as a leisure and events destination venue this autumn.

Open seven days a week, it will house a number of food, drink and lifestyle tenants, pop-up stalls and outdoor events space with a strong pre-match offering due to its location near to Sunderland AFC’s Stadium of Light.

A number of tenants have already signed up for space there, including Hairy Biker Si King with his first standalone venture and Speyside Distillery.

Sustainability and innovation are what drives forward the development of Riverside Sunderland. By doubling the city centre population and utilising the latest in sustainable design, the development brings together a diverse residential community with growing businesses. In doing so, Riverside is building the Sunderland of the past to forge the city of the future, regenerating the urban environment to create an exciting space for long-term locals and newcomers alike.

Riverside Sunderland

The Assembly Rooms

One of the finest examples of Georgian architecture, The Assembly Rooms in Newcastle dates back to 1776. Having undergone a major recent refurbishment, this grand and historic building is being reinvented as a community-focused event space.

Designed by architect William Newton in his signature elegant classic style, The Assembly Rooms was first opened as an entertainment and social venue for local people during the reign of George III. The venue has been at the heart of Newcastle’s arts and cultural scene ever since, with figures such as the Duke of Wellington, Charles Dickens and several monarchs visiting over the years.

Now, restoration of The Assembly Rooms will see the building bought back into public use. As part of the placemaking strategy for the building, the public will be invited to celebrate life’s milestones there, from christening parties and wedding receptions to corporate events, conferences and community get-togethers.

The advantage of developing a building so iconic and historic is that you have a head-start in your marketing; The Assembly Rooms has been part of Newcastle’s architectural fabric for centuries, and as such there is likely to be no shortage of event enquiries.

However, what makes the regeneration of The Assembly Rooms unique is how community is central to this marketing strategy. By honouring the arts and cultural legacy of the building, and creating an exciting space for communities and businesses, The Assembly Rooms will help to meet the very 21st century demand for beautiful and flexible shared spaces, while bringing to life the cultural legacy of this historic and vibrant city.

The Assembly Rooms

Using history to unlock the future for the region

The right branding and positioning is key to the examples we’ve shared here. By building on the history and heritage of each location, these regeneration projects are successfully enhancing their brand and placemaking, creating exciting spaces for the communities and businesses of now and the future.

At Cool Blue, we’ve helped lots of companies of all sizes on their branding and positioning, and we are specialists in regeneration projects.

From analysing potential audiences and stakeholders, through to creating whole new brands with clear visual identities and refreshed communications that reflect on the past while looking forward to the future, we can help.

As an example, see how we supported the historic Grainger Market in reconnecting with the wider community and launching a fresh brand identity.

To start your regeneration brand journey or to just have a chat about where you are at the moment, please drop us a line or give us a call. 

Using history to unlock  the future for the region

Like what you see?

Selected Works

The North East Ambulance Service:Make a Life-Saving Difference.

Harrogate Spring WaterMindful Drinking takes centre stage at Festive Influencer event.

Barker and Stonehouse: Gateshead Store LaunchUnveiling the new £5m store in Gateshead.

Harrogate Spring Water - Mindful DrinkingBringing a taste of Royal Ascot to North Yorkshire.

The City Baths Newcastle X John LewisBringing a brand partnership to this historic leisure destination.

Barker and Stonehouse: A Story of SustainabilityA sustainable approach to furniture retail.

Grainger MarketEnhancing Newcastle’s Bustling Grade I Traders Market.

Anglo American:Powering cyber security.

Teesside UniversityCelebrating the Tees Valley digital community.

ProtiumStakeholder communications and engagement strategy.

Banks HomesCreating a unique brand identity for the new-to-market luxury housebuilder.

North P&I:160 years of incredible maritime history.

Middlesbrough College:Finding brand purpose for a dynamic educator.

Sleepeezee:Everything's easy when you Sleepeezee.

North East England Chamber of CommerceGiving businesses their say in skills provision.

Ercol:A moment of pride in ercol’s history.

Newcastle Helix:Our City’s Drive Towards Net Zero.

Story Homes:A new chapter for this thriving residential developer.

Stephenson WorksA welcoming and generous spirit.

NewcastleGateshead Quays:A quay moment for NewcastleGateshead.

TeesAMP:Making it in Middlesbrough.

NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau:Tyne to get back to business.

Tees Valley Combined Authority:Encouraging staycations in Tees Valley.

Siglion:Bringing some vitamin sea to Seaburn.

North East Ambulance Service:A global pandemic.

Thirteen Homes:How do you want to live?

herdysleep:A first of its kind for the bed-in-a-box market.

Libra Interiors:Connecting consumers in a new way.

Tees Valley Combined Authority:Tees Valley Mayoral Election Campaign.

Animex:A virtual event bringing the brightest of minds together.

Imagine. Create. EGGER:Launch of a new product range for this global manufacturer

Finchale Group:A dynamic rebrand for the leading employment charity.

Duresta:A brave and bohemian collaboration.

South Tyneside Council:Recognising local community heroes.

Fusion:Healthy in the Heart of the City.

UK Land EstatesBuildings for Business.

Merit HoldingsA world leading engineering company.

Harrogate Spring Water:Continuing to make a difference.

Barker and Stonehouse:Say hello to Mr Clarke.


Cool Blue is a full-service agency that drives brands forwards. Our ideas and innovations are always conducted with purpose. Delivering solutions that combat specific challenges and provide results. Our strategic expertise offer a valuable service to every one of our clients, helping them achieve their goals.


Soho Works, 2nd Floor
180 Strand

T: 0203 535 0222


Boho 5, Bridge St East
The Boho Zone

T: 01642 351011

Toffee Factory
Lower Steenberg’s Yard
Newcastle upon Tyne
T. 0191 375 9150