SOARING above the Portsmouth skyline, this could be the city’s own version of London’s Shard.
Draft plans were today being unveiled to the public for what Brunel House, in The Hard, will become.
The glass and steel structure is being hailed as the beginning of The Hard’s rebirth, and the start of a brighter future for Portsmouth.
The city’s council leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘It’s great that we’re finally going to get rid of a hideous building that tells visitors coming out of Gunwharf or out of the railways station that Portsmouth is closed.
‘I’ll be so pleased when Brunel House is demolished and we get something that brings people into the city.
‘I hope it is built and built quickly.
‘It will provide jobs in its construction and will free up about 165 family homes as the students move out.’
Portsmouth construction firm Warings would turn the old, dilapidated Brunel House into a huge structure which includes a 200-bed hotel, a 600-bed student halls of residence, private homes with parking, and shops on the ground floor.
The plans have been outlined by Bouyges Development, which, along with Warings, is part of the French construction giant Bouyges.
It is hoped that building work will start in 2014.
Nicolas Guerin, managing director of Bouygues Development, said: ‘Brunel House will serve a huge range of people in the area.
‘The development will be great for Portsmouth, not only complementing the historic heritage of the dockyards but also bringing in economic opportunities.’
The public is being invited to see the designs for themselves at the John Pounds Centre, Queen Street, Portsea, today from 5pm until 8pm, and tomorrow from 12pm until 6pm.
The Bouygues Development team will be on hand to discuss the plans, listen to feedback and answer questions.
Mr Guerin added: ‘The team looks forward to addressing any queries at the exhibition and will endeavour to answer all questions from the public.’
The plans have already been seen by council members, representatives from the Portsmouth Society, Friends of Old Portsmouth and the Portsea Action Group.
BRUNEL HOUSE IS ALL PART OF THE MASTERPLAN
WHEN The News revealed the council’s masterplan for the regeneration of the waterfront part of the city, one word came up – bold.
It involved a walkway between the historic dockyard and Gunwharf Quays, a host of cafes, restaurants, apartments and hotels.
And it saw Pall Europe’s former home, Europa House, being turned into a hotel, and the dilapidated Brunel House knocked down and redeveloped into something altogether more useful.
Peter Goodship, chairman of the City Development Group, says: ‘We’re aiming to create a waterfront where there is a rich mixture of places to learn, work, eat, visit and live.’
Brunel House used to be an accommodation block owned by the Ministry of Defence.
It gave homes to civil servants and naval officers from the 1960s up until the end of the Cold War. The plans released today by Bouyges Development are the fruit of many months of negotiation with a trust in London, which owns the property.
Now the team from Bouyges Development is working with Portsmouth City Council to ensure their plans for the Brunel House site are in line with council’s policy.
If so, it is hoped the plans will go to a planning committee meeting held by the council some time next year.
If approved, work could start in 2014.