Insurance company boosts town

INSURANCE giant Axa today announced a massive £10million refurbishment of Ipswich's dilapidated office building Suffolk House.As part of a project expected to exceed £12million, the company is set to completely transform the building and make it suitable to house office workers once again.

INSURANCE giant Axa today announced a massive £10million refurbishment of Ipswich's dilapidated office building Suffolk House.

As part of a project expected to exceed £12million, the company is set to completely transform the building and make it suitable to house office workers once again.

The complex, which neighbours Axa's headquarters in Civic Drive, has been unused and surrounded by scaffolding for about two years after the previous tenants, TXU, vacated.

The announcement brings to an end months of speculation about the future of Suffolk House and indicates a long-term commitment from Axa to its operations in the town.

Malcolm Hollister, Axa site manager, said: "This kind of investment really demonstrates Axa's long-term commitment to the Ipswich site and the Ipswich community."

He added: "At a senior level people are really excited because it enables us to quite literally put our money where our mouth is in terms of saying we are part of the Ipswich community."

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It is about five years since Axa last occupied the building, which is connected to its main building, known as Suffolk House Extension, by connecting bridges.

The scaffolding has been used to act as a protective barrier after the exterior of the building deteriorated.

Starting in January next year, the refurbishment will completely overhaul the building so that it can be used to house Axa staff currently based in satellite offices around the town centre.

The company, which employs more than 1,300 people in Ipswich, hopes the work will be completed by the end of 2005.

The decision to go ahead with the project followed an agreement with Ipswich Borough Council for Axa to be granted a new lease of Suffolk House.

Mr Hollister said: "Over the next few months we will be inviting tenders for the work and producing detailed plans of activities, with the help and input of our staff."

He added: "The building is in very significant need of a refurbishment externally and internally.

"This will bring us back to Axa occupying the two buildings."

About £2million will be spent on improvements to Suffolk House Extension and maintenance work has already begun on the Axa staff car park.

That stage of the project is expected to be complete within the next few months.

The refurbishment of Suffolk House will add an extra 50per cent of floorspace to the Axa site and will provide larger meeting rooms, additional staff facilities and, possibly, training facilities.

Mr Hollister said the new building would provide potential for the company to increase its Ipswich workforce.

"Certainly what it does give us is the capacity to take more people in if that's what the business wants," he said.

Weblink: www.axa.co.uk

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