City’s one billion pound regeneration projects explained
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
One billion is a number which crops up in speeches and press releases from the leader of Swansea Council, Rob Stewart, from time to time.
It’s the amount of public and private money flowing into projects in the city, he has said.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked for a breakdown of this £1 billion, and whether the projects involved were public, private and under way or planned.
Here are the projects, in descending order of value:
Project name? Shaping Swansea, which comprises plans to regenerate seven plots of land: the Civic Centre site, Swansea Central North – land north of Oystermouth Road from St David’s multi-storey car park up towards St Mary’s Church, riverside land in St Thomas near the northernmost Tawe bridge, land at the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks site, the Sailbridge site between East Burrows Road and the rear of Sainsbury’s, maritime quarter land next to the former Marina Towers Observatory, and a plot on Oxford Street which has a car park.
Cost and funding source? £750 million is the estimated value of all the sites once operational. Project to be substantially funded by the private sector. Regeneration company Urban Splash appointed as the council’s development partner.
Is it being built yet? No, the council said early proposals were being drawn up in more detail and that the public would have a chance to help shape the final plans. It looks likely that Swansea Central North, the Civic Centre – potentially featuring an interactive aquarium – and the St Thomas riverside site will be the frontrunners. Shaping Swansea is two decade-long project.
Project name? Copr Bay, comprising Swansea Arena, the adjacent coastal park, parking underneath, the yellow bridge across Oystermouth Road and flats and commercial units the other side.
Cost and funding source? The £135 million cost has required £96 million of council borrowing at low interest rates. This will be paid back over 40 years, with total borrowing costs just under £173 million. Funding will also come from the sale of the flats, a Welsh Government loan, and a contribution via the city deal for the Swansea Bay City Region.
Is it being built yet? Yes, the arena, coastal park and bridge are complete but there is still work to do on the remaining elements, although the flats will be handed over very shortly to social housing provider Pobl Group.
Project name? Mariner Street student development, featuring a 17-storey tower and 780 bed spaces opposite Swansea railway station. Has a courtyard and ground floor commercial space.
Cost and funding source? £50 million private sector project.
Is it being built yet? Yes, and the project has been completed.
Project name? 71/72 The Kingsway, featuring modern office space, a roof terrace and greenery at the former Oceana nightclub site. It will link through to Oxford Street, and is expected to provide space for 600 jobs.
Cost and funding source? The £40 million cost, said the council, is coming from the city deal, with support from the European regional development fund through the Welsh Government.
Is it being built yet? Yes, construction company Bouygues UK has been appointed and work is under way. The council hopes the building will be open next year.
Project name? Skyline, an adventure park featuring gondola rides up Kilvey Hill – most likely from land at Landore – with luge runs, zip lines, a sky swing and hill-top viewing platform.
Cost and funding source? Skyline is a private sector project put forward by New Zealand-based Skyline Enterprises but the council said the £38 million scheme cost could, if approved, include Welsh Government and council contributions.
Is it being built yet? No. Skyline Enterprises said in March that it was in the final stages of due diligience and that it aimed for the visitor attraction to open in 2025.
Project name? Biophilic Living – derived from biopilia, which means love of nature. A new building replacing the former Woolworth’s store on Oxford Street incorporating 44 upper floor flats and an “urban farm”, with commercial space underneath and below that retail and educational/exhibition areas. Its highest section will be 12 storeys.
Cost and funding source? £20 million, funded by Hacer Developments with support via the Welsh Government’s innovate housing programme grant scheme. Hacer Development’s managing director Carwyn Davies said the Welsh Government had been “absolutely brilliant”.
Is it being built yet? Yes, work got under way several months ago and the foundations are in. The aim is for completion towards the end of next year.
Project name? Kingsway upgrade, resulting in the one-way city centre street reverting back to two-way, wider pavements, more seating and greenery. Orchard Street and Christina Street also underwent changes.
Cost and funding source? £12 million, funded by the council with support from the European regional development fund through the Welsh Government.
Is it being built yet? Yes, the project is complete. It took longer than planned due to the original construction company going into administration.
Project name? Castle Square Gardens. The largely stone square will have more trees than currently, with lawned areas, flowerbeds and a water jet feature. There will be two commercial buildings, which could both be divided in two and have cafe or retail use with outside seating.
Cost and funding source? £10 million, to be funded by the council and Welsh Government.
Is it being built yet? No, a planning application is due to be submitted this year, and the council has said the new-look square could be up and running in late 2023.
Project name? Palace Theatre restoration. Major piece of work to rescue what was until recently a privately-owned listed building from further dereliction. Will result in modern office accommodation.
Cost and funding source? £8.5 million, paid for by the council with support from the European regional development fund and via the Welsh Government’s transforming towns programme.
Is it being built yet? Yes, the restoration is under way and the project is due for completion early to mid-2023.
Project name? Albert Hall restoration. The derelict building on the corner of Craddock Street and De-La-Beche Street will be turned into a live music venue, with office and business space also in the mix.
Cost and funding source? £8m from the private sector.
Is it being built yet? Yes, work is under way.
Project name? Hafod Morfa Copperworks. Restoration of old buildings at the former industrial site by the River Tawe, not far from the Swansea.com Stadium, and the creation of a Penderyn whisky distillery and visitor attraction.
Cost and funding source? £7.5 million, funded by the council, National Lottery heritage fund and Welsh Government’s transforming towns programme.
Is it being built yet? Yes, restoration well under way. The council said Penderyn aims to open its attraction by spring next year.
Project name? Wind Street upgrade. The city’s party street is now pedestrianised, and has more outdoor dining and seating space and more greenery.
Cost and funding source? £3 million, paid for by the council with support from Welsh Government’s targeted regeneration initiative.
Is it being built yet? Yes, the upgrade has concluded.
Project name? Swansea Market. A new market garden area at the indoor market, plus upgraded toilets.
Cost and funding source? £439,000, funded by the council.
Is it being built yet? Yes, the market garden and toilet work has been carried out, and the council said new entrances and improved wi-fi were planned.
Cllr Stewart said much had already been achieved to boost Swansea’s economy, create jobs and raise the city’s profile.
He added: “This is a time of unprecedented regeneration in Swansea, with major public and private sector investment transforming our city into one of the UK’s best places to live, work, study and visit.”
Carwyn Davies, managing director of Hacer Developments, which is behind the Biophilic Living building on Oxford Street, said investors wanted to see Swansea improve and that public sector-led projects like the new arena were key drivers in raising land values.
Mr Davies said sites which grew in value became “viable investment opportunities”. He added: “I’d also stress it has to be a partnership between the public and private sectors.”
A Swansea-based developer who has seen the city’s fortunes ebb and flow since the 1960s said he felt the regeneration over the last five years or so was on a greater scale than anything over the last 20 years.
“It has taken Rob (Stewart) time, but these things do take time,” said the man, who asked not to be named. “He has injected a new dynamism into the city that I don’t think it has seen since the 70s. We had lost our way.
“It’s just a shame that we haven’t got the 10 or so construction companies that we used to have.”
He added: “The Skyline development would open a whole new dynamic for the city.”
The projects listed above have a total value of £1.18 billion, and don’t include the new library and community hub building at the former BHS store in Oxford Street, a number of purpose-built student accommodation schemes, the proposed Blue Eden battery, housing and lagoon project, or the planned Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro.
The Labour administration’s level of borrowing to fund Copr Bay has come under scrutiny at times, and it remains to be seen how much of the Shaping Swansea programme comes to fruition, but the city is clearly undergoing a significant period of change.
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