Plan to revive heart of city – Homes, offices and restaurants in vision for old factory

How the planned development of the Gardiner Haskins building and surrounding area would look

One of Bristol’s iconic former factories has been earmarked for redevelopment to create more than 200 homes, offices, cafes and restaurants.

The old soap factory, close to the city centre, was bought by developers First Base after furniture store Gardiner Haskins relocated its staff and shut its store in 2018.

First Base plans to restore the old factory and create two more buildings alongside to form a mix of workspaces, 243 homes plus cafes and restaurants and a purpose built food hall.

Bristol City councillors have given the scheme the thumbs up but it still has to get government
approval due to the listed status of the old structures.

Plans to redevelop Bristol’s former Gardiner Haskins building have moved a step closer after city councillors gave them the green light.

Developers First Base bought the 2.25 acre city centre soapworks site – originally a soap factory dating back to the 1860s – to create a mix of workspaces, more than 200 homes, cafes and restaurants, a food hall and, originally, an apart-hotel.

They plan to put up two new buildings alongside the ‘sensitive restoration’ of the soapworks and
create a public square with pedestrian and cycle routes to other parts of the city.

First Base and architects Woods Bagot say the £175 million scheme will revitalise the area and deliver a vibrant new district with ‘much needed’ new homes, jobs for local people and useable public spaces.

But because the factory, which was home to Gardiner Haskins homeware and furniture store until
2018, is Grade-II listed it has to be approved by the government.

Historic England has objected to the ‘substantial demolition’ of industrial structures on the site which it says would cause ‘considerable harm’.

And Bristol councillors initially deferred the decision because of concerns a hotel would mean fewer affordable homes. But when First Base ditched the idea, the scheme got the go-ahead,
pending the secretary of state’s decision.

People living nearby in Kingsley House – many of whom are council tenants – say they fear being left in the shadow of the new buildings – reportedly 20-storeys high.

But the developers say they will work with the community group to mitigate the impact. Lucinda Mitchell, project director at First Base, said: “We are excited to move forward with the regeneration of the soapworks site, which will restore one of Bristol’s landmark buildings and create a new
green mixed-use district in the heart of the city.

“The scheme will help drive Bristol’s economic recovery from covid19 by delivering the modern flexible workspace needed in the city. “Soapworks will be a live, work, play neighbourhood, with high quality homes and a new ecology of independent retailers, food operators and cafes, as well as cultural uses, to attract and retain talent in the city centre.

“We are already seeing strong demand for the workspace and homes and look forward to working with Bristol City Council and the local community to deliver this exciting project.”