One was built to replace a visitor centre burnt to the ground by arsonists, while the other brought a derelict town-centre site back into use.
And now, these two developments have been recognised in a major competition, celebrating innovative projects and their impact on local communities.
The Wildlife Discovery Centre, at Hauxley Nature Reserve, and The Maltings, in Alnwick, have been crowned winners in the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) Awards 2018, North East.
The Discovery Centre took the regional title in the Community Benefit category.
The eco-friendly building was opened last year by TV presenter Simon King, replacing the site’s previous centre, which was destroyed by arsonists in June 2010.
The smart-looking facility boasts an education suite, a café and fine views of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT) reserve. It was constructed with the help of 112 volunteers, who clocked up more than 22,000 hours since building started in May 2015.
RICS judges said the £600,000 centre ‘is an exceptional asset’ and praised the project team – including Andy Laurie Construction Consultancy, Bright Blue Studio and NWT – ‘for creating what is arguably one of the North East’s greenest buildings for people of all ages to enjoy’.
Meanwhile, The Maltings took the North East prize in the Residential Property category.
The Maltings, restored and converted by Ascent Homes and ID Partnership, transformed the Grade-II Listed Bolams Mill and Kiln House into 37 unique apartments.
RICS describes the new look as stunning and imaginatively designed, saying that the derelict buildings – once the home of Alnwick Brewery – have been sensitively brought back into use.
RICS judges praised the efforts to deliver ‘contemporary, yet unusual homes that have much of the historical features of the original buildings intact’.
The judges recognised that this conversion project ‘has not only protected the listed building for many years to come, it has also preserved a rare part of Alnwick’s historic fabric in what is an important conservation area’.
Neil Turnbull, from Ascent Homes, said: “This prestigious award is just reward for the time, effort and commitment shown by Ascent Homes in rescuing a derelict building which was an eyesore in the town centre and reflects our commitment to deliver quality residential property in Northumberland.”
Only five properties remain for sale at The Maltings.
Ascent Homes’ head of sales and marketing, Claire Scott, said: “To say we are thrilled to receive this award is an understatement because it is such a prestigious accolade to be awarded to a company as young as Ascent Homes. I’m incredibly proud of all the hard work and dedication that has gone into making The Maltings the success it has become.
“Furthermore, I’d really like to congratulate our sales executive responsible for selling the development, Demi Chambers, for the hard work she has put in to welcome residents of all ages in the way that she has.
“I believe this, coupled with the innovative design by architect, ID Partnership, have been key factors in creating the palpable sense of community that all residents feel, living in The Maltings.”