People and plans are now in place to bring the 14th century Hylton Castle back into community use.
The community-led cultural heritage project which has successfully attracted £2.9 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, is boosted by £1.5m match funding from Sunderland City Council.
This will bring the castle and its grounds back to life.
Leading the charge will be project director, Jon Charlton, he said: “I am delighted to be appointed to lead this exciting cultural heritage project, and return one of the city’s most famous historic landmarks to daily use.
“None of this would have been possible without the dedication, drive and enthusiasm of local people.
“My role is to take that vision forward, and use the skills and resources we have available to help make it a reality.”
One of Mr Charlton’s first official tasks is to meet local ward councillors and members the Friends Group on-site on Tuesday, July 5, to take them on a tour of the building and the Dene.
Mr Charlton and the group will then discuss future plans and the proposed timetable of preparatory work and construction.
Built over three floors, the Castle Gatehouse will accommodate classrooms, a café, exhibition and flexible community spaces for meetings and events.
The community run project will also see young people appointed to sit on the board alongside adult mentors.
Councillor Denny Wilson, chair of Sunderland’s North Area Committee, said: “After so many years of hard work in the community to save the castle for future generations and restore it to use, we’re all delighted to see the next, final stage of that process begin.
“With all our support and the financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Sunderland City Council, we can all look forward to returning Hylton Castle to the centre of community life.
“What makes this heritage project so special is the fact that it has always been community led.
“This will be reflected in the unique management structure with young people appointed to the board working towards the long term future development of the site.”
Keith Younghusband, Chair of the ‘Friends of Hylton Castle’ voluntary group, added: “We’ve been working and campaigning for this day for more than twenty years.
“My thanks go to all those who have been involved in the successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid which has made this all possible, especially Sunderland City Council and their North Area Committee who helped and funded us to develop the application.
“With their funding and continuing support we now have the opportunity to turn our hopes and ambitions for Hylton Castle into reality and restore this wonderful building into something that we can all be proud of. “