The city’s billion-pound regeneration projects explained

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Swansea Civic Center image by Richard Youle

Richard Youle, local democracy journalist

One billion is a figure that comes up from time to time in speeches and press releases by the leader of Swansea Council, Rob Stewart.

This is the amount of public and private funds that are invested in projects in the city, he said.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked for a breakdown of this billion pounds and whether the projects involved were public, private and underway or planned.

Here are the projects, in descending order of value:

Name of the project? Shaping Swansea, which includes regeneration plans for seven plots of land: the civic center site, Swansea Central North – land north of Oystermouth Road from St David’s multi-storey car park to St Mary’s Church, riverside land in St Thomas near the northernmost Tawe bridge, land on the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks site, the Sailbridge site between East Burrows Road and the back of Sainsbury’s, land in the Maritime Quarter next to the former Marina Towers observatory and a plot on Oxford Street which has parking.

Cost and source of funding? £750 million is the estimated value of all the sites once operational. Project funded largely by the private sector. Regeneration company Urban Splash is named as the council’s development partner.

Is it still under construction? No, the council said the first proposals were being worked out in more detail and the public would have the opportunity to help shape the final plans. It seems likely that Swansea Central North, the Civic Center – potentially with an interactive aquarium – and the St Thomas Riverside venue will be favourites. Shaping Swansea is a two-decade project.

Swansea Arena image by Richard Youle

Name of the project? Copr Bay, comprising Swansea Arena, the adjacent Coastal Park, car park below, the yellow bridge over Oystermouth Road and apartments and commercial units on the other side.

Cost and source of funding? The £135m cost required £96m of municipal borrowing at low interest rates. This sum will be repaid over 40 years, with total borrowing costs just under £173m. Funding will also come from the sale of the flats, a loan from the Welsh Government and a contribution through the City Agreement for the Swansea Bay City area.

Is it still under construction? Yes, the arena, the coastal park and the bridge are finished but there is still work to be done on the remaining elements, even if the apartments will be handed over very soon to the social landlord Pobl Group.

Mariner Street Swansea student development image by Richard Youle

Name of the project? Mariner Street student residence comprising a 17-storey, 780-bed tower opposite Swansea Station. Has a courtyard and commercial space on the ground floor.

Cost and source of funding? £50m private sector project.

Is it still under construction? Yes, and the project is finished.

Image of the office building arriving at the Kingsway. Swansea Council Picture.

Name of the project? 71/72 The Kingsway, with modern offices, a rooftop terrace and greenery on the site of the former Oceana nightclub. It will link to Oxford Street and is expected to provide space for 600 jobs.

Cost and source of funding? The £40million cost, the council said, comes from the city’s deal, with support from the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

Is it still under construction? Yes, the construction company Bouygues UK has been commissioned and the works are in progress. The council hopes the building will be open next year.

Name of the project? Skyline, an adventure park offering gondola rides up Kilvey Hill (probably from Landore) with toboggan runs, zip lines, a swing and a hilltop viewing platform.

Cost and source of funding? Skyline is a private sector project proposed by New Zealand-based Skyline Enterprises, but the board said the cost of the £38m scheme could, if approved, include contributions from the Welsh government and the advice.

Is it still under construction? No. Skyline Enterprises said in March it was in the final stages of due diligence and aimed to open the tourist attraction in 2025.

Name of the project? Biophilic Living – derived from biopilia, which means love of nature. A new building replacing the old Woolworth store on Oxford Street comprising 44 upper floor apartments and an ‘urban farm’, with commercial space below and below these retail and educational/exhibition areas. Its highest part will be 12 floors.

Cost and source of funding? £20m, funded by Hacer Developments with support from the Welsh Government’s Innovative Housing Scheme grant scheme. Hacer Development chief executive Carwyn Davies said the Welsh government had been “absolutely brilliant”.

Is it still under construction? Yes, work started several months ago and the foundations are in place. The goal is to finish by the end of next year.

Name of the project? Upgrading Kingsway, resulting in the return of the downtown one-way street to wider two-way sidewalks, more seating and greenery. Orchard Street and Christina Street also underwent changes.

Cost and source of funding? £12m, funded by the council with support from the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

Is it still under construction? Yes, the project is finished. This took longer than expected due to the original construction company going into administration.

Castle Square and Wind Street Swansea image by Sarah Morgan Jones

Name of the project? Gardens of the castle square. The largely stone square will have more trees than at present, with lawns, flower beds and a water feature. There will be two commercial buildings, both of which could be split into two and serve as a cafe or retail with outdoor seating.

Cost and source of funding? £10 million, funded by the council and the Welsh government.

Is it still under construction? No, a planning application is due this year, and the council said the new plaza could be operational by the end of 2023.

Palace Theater Swansea image by Richard Youle

Name of the project? Restoration of the Palais Theatre. Major work to save what was until recently a private listed building from further abandonment. Will result in modern office space.

Cost and source of funding? £8.5m, paid for by the council with support from the European Regional Development Fund and through the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns scheme.

Is it still under construction? Yes, restoration is underway and the project is expected to be completed in early to mid-2023.

Image of Albert Hall Swansea by Richard Youle

Name of the project? Restoration of the Albert Hall. The derelict building on the corner of Rue Craddock and Rue De-La-Beche will be transformed into a concert hall, with offices and retail space also in the mix.

Cost and source of funding? £8 million from the private sector.

Is it still under construction? Yes, work is in progress.

Name of the project? Hafod Morfa copper works. Restoration of old buildings on the former industrial site by the River Tawe, not far from Swansea.com Stadium, and creation of a Penderyn whiskey distillery and tourist attraction.

Cost and source of funding? £7.5m, funded by the council, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns scheme.

Is it still under construction? Yes, restoration on track. The council said Penderyn aims to open its attraction by spring next year.

Wind Street Swansea image by Richard Youle

Name of the project? Wind Street upgrade. The city’s party street is now pedestrianized and has more outdoor dining and seating areas and more greenery.

Cost and source of funding? £3m, paid for by the council with support from the Welsh Government’s Targeted Regeneration Initiative.

Is it still under construction? Yes, the upgrade is complete.

Name of the project? Swansea Market. A new market garden area in the covered market, as well as improved toilets.

Cost and source of funding? £439,000, funded by the council.

Is it still under construction? Yes, the market garden and toilet works have been done, and the town hall has indicated that new entrances and improved wi-fi are planned.

Unprecedented regeneration

Cllr Stewart said a lot had already been done to boost Swansea’s economy, create jobs and raise the profile of the town.

He added: “This is a period of unprecedented regeneration in Swansea, with major public and private sector investment transforming our city into one of the best places in the UK 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 public sector-led projects like the new arena were key drivers for growth land value.

Mr Davies said sites that rose in value became “viable investment opportunities”. He added: “I would also like to stress that it must be a partnership between the public and private sectors.

Dynamism

A Swansea-based developer who has seen the town’s fortunes fluctuate since the 1960s said he believes the regeneration over the past five years or so has been on a larger scale than anything that has happened in the past of the last 20 years.

“It took Rob (Stewart) time, but these things take time,” said the man, who asked not to be named. “He breathed a new dynamism into the city that I don’t think I’ve seen since the 1970s. We had lost our way.

“It’s just a shame that we don’t have the ten or so construction companies we had before.”

He added: “The development of Skyline would open up a whole new dynamic for the city.”

The projects listed above have a total value of £1.18 billion and do not include the new library and community center building of the former BHS store in Oxford Street, a number of purpose-built student accommodation, the proposed Blue Eden Battery, Housing and Lagoon Project, or the Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro Project.

The level of Labor Administration borrowing to fund Copr Bay has come under scrutiny at times, and it remains to be seen how well the Shaping Swansea scheme will materialize, but the town is clearly going through a period of significant change.


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About James K. Bonnette

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