Wharton Construction has begun work on the first phase to transform Darlington’s historic indoor market.
Over the next three months, it will install an eco-friendly biomass boiler, provide an enhanced entrance off West Row, and create additional public toilets.
The Darlington-based firm will also re-purpose a third of the current retail area, constructing six new purpose-built stalls to create a street food area, together with a bar and events stage.
Director Matthew Wharton also revealed that some of the building’s features previously hidden from view will also be revealed – including the installation of reinforced glass floor panels to allow visitors a glimpse into the underground vaults.
The family-run firm was appointed lead contractor for phase one of the Darlington Victorian Market project by Market Asset Management (MAM), which is responsible for the redevelopment and operation of the indoor and outdoor markets. It leases the building from Darlington Borough Council. The project is funded by Darlington Borough Council, MAM, and Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA).
Later phases will involve opening up the vaults to create a space for restaurants and bars, together with the creation of the Temperate Garden, a glass structure at the eastern side of the building that will be filled with greenery where visitors can eat, drink, and relax.
Whilst continuing to offer sales outlets for independent retailers, fresh food stalls, local growers and artisan producers, the refurbished market will also include a new mezzanine business centre.
Heather Scott, the leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “It’s an exciting moment that marks the start of a project that will make Darlington Victorian Market a centrepiece of the town – celebrating its rich heritage whilst guaranteeing its future by making it an attractive and vibrant destination for generations to come.”
“I’m also delighted that as a Darlington company, Wharton Construction is playing a key role and its involvement in the project reflects this council’s commitment to supporting local jobs and skills.”
Matthew Wharton added: “As a long-established Darlington firm we are proud to have been selected to be part of a project that will improve and restore one of the town’s most iconic and beloved buildings.
“The indoor market holds a special place in the hearts of Darlingtonians and this will give it a new lease of life by making it a key retail and leisure destination.”
Raymond Linch, managing director MAM, said: “We are thrilled to get the project underway and are very excited about the new offers we are developing to match the needs of all the people in Darlington and beyond.
“We are focused on developing a wonderfully strong retail offer and a family-based entertainment and dining venue, bringing much wanted evening footfall to the town-centre.”
Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen added: “We are proud to support this work and I look forward to the market becoming a real visitor destination, attracting people into the town from across the Tees Valley.”