Building work on the University of Gloucestershire's new city centre campus is well underway, with the university sharing photos of the latest progress on restoring and transforming the historic building.
Working with partner Morgan Sindall Construction, it has installed energy efficient double-glazed windows replicating the original Art Deco design on all elevations, with Crittall Windows — the firm which fitted the original windows on the building back in the 1930s — supplying many of them.
There are new roof lanterns allowing natural light to penetrate through the building down to the basement via new 'atria' which have been cut through each floor, with picture windows also due to be installed soon, creating a wall of glass that overlooks Kings Square.
The building's external facades have all been cleaned with repairs being made to the stonework and restoration work being undertaken on the original tracery panels, which will sit above the original shop windows on the Oxebode side of the building.
The former shop fittings have also been stripped out, taking the building back down to its shell, with fire protection work currently underway to ensure it meets the very latest safety standards. Work to install new partitions and fittings to create the new teaching, research and learning spaces, as well as offices for staff and the Students' Union; specialist facilities for the Health and Wellbeing centre; a new cafe; and libraries is due to start soon.
The exacting project has presented a variety of challenges so far, from stripping lead paint to discovering archaeological remains which are currently being investigated, but the university said 'the final phases can be confidently planned through to completion in June 2024' — meaning it can start operating from the building next summer and commence teaching at the beginning of the new academic year in September 2024.
The first occupants of the soon-to-be completed campus will be the School of Health and Social Care, Gloucestershire County Council's new Gloucester Library and the new Health and Wellbeing Centre.
Vice-chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, Stephen Marston, said: 'People passing by will now be able to see the building coming back to life as the windows are installed and the stonework is cleaned. Inside, the space is also taking shape.
'This has been a challenging project, re-purposing a complex and rather run-down old building to meet the university’s needs. But we can now begin to see what a transformation of the building it will be, with original Art Deco facades restored, a striking glass wall on Kings Square, and inside, a fantastic environment for students and staff.
'We are now just a year away from realising the vision of creating an exceptional new teaching campus, bringing new life and vibrancy to the heart of our city, and giving a powerful boost with our partners to the regeneration of the historic centre.'
Area director at Morgan Sindall Construction, Richard Fielding, added: 'We are delighted to be working on the transformation of this former department store into a city centre campus, whilst retaining the character and charm of the building.
'We have a proven track record of successfully delivering educational facilities and to give the previous Debenhams site a new purpose has been an exciting challenge for the team. We look forward to seeing the area flourish once more upon completion.'