Projects set to make city centre more vibrant

Posted on Tuesday 10th March 2015


Newport's vibrant and viable places programme is making good progress with a number of projects now under way.

Key buildings in High Street are being transformed thanks to financial assistance from the scheme while other properties are being given a new look.

Newport City Council was awarded nearly £15 million by the Welsh Government under its vibrant and viable places regeneration framework and this is expected to lead to a total investment of £60 million thanks to partnerships with the third and private sector.

The ambitious initiative is aimed at creating homes and businesses in key buildings, bringing new spaces, skills and jobs to the city centre.

Newport City Council is on track to spend more than £6 million of the Welsh Government funding in the first year of the programme.

Minister for communities and tackling poverty, Lesley Griffiths, said: "We want communities across Wales to be vibrant, viable places to live, work and socialise. I'm delighted the Welsh Government has been able to award nearly £15 million towards the regeneration of Newport, which is set to have a truly transformative effect on the area.

"The start of work on this first series of projects marks a significant milestone. This programme of regeneration will not only will create much needed homes and businesses, but also boost the local economy and provide essential jobs and training opportunities."

Councillor John Richards, Newport City Council's cabinet member for regeneration and development, said: "It has been a long-held ambition of the council to introduce a more vital mix of business, homes, and jobs into the city centre and it is exciting to see those aims coming to fruition.

"The vibrant and viable places programme is an important piece of our vision to revitalise the city centre which includes Friar's Walk, the establishment of the Business Improvement District and superfast broadband.

"We have worked with the Welsh Government and a number of different partners to deliver these first projects and we can look forward to many more over the next couple of years making the city centre a great place to live, work and relax."

One major project involves a major facelift for the landmark National Buildings in Commercial Street, once home to Marks electrical shop. Work has begun on a new look for the shop fronts and the residential upper floors.

Andrew Jacobs, a National Buildings trustee, said the property was about 100 years old and stood on the site of the former St Paul's National Schools.

"National Buildings is an ornate building but over the years has suffered from the ravages of time.  We are all extremely pleased and excited that the building will be restored to its former glory with the help of Newport City Council.  The whole of the front of the building is being cleaned and the façade is being brought back to a similar look to when it was originally built in the early 1900s. 

"The building has a prominent standing opposite St Paul's Church at the lower end of Commercial Street and will provide an attractive entrance to one of the gateways to the city centre.  The property provides a selection of retail units from half units to a double-unit which can foster growth from start-ups to fully established businesses.  As well as retail, the property is also home to 12 flats which provide for an exciting and vibrant time in the heart of Newport for those lucky enough to live there."

Last year Newport negotiated a short-term loan to the company owned by successful businessman Jahan Abedi to convert the former Kings Hotel into high quality apartments, offices and shops. The High Street project is the second major project in the city for Mr Abedi, one of TV's Secret Millionaires, who is also behind the successful Shire Hall development.

Grant aid has also been awarded by the council towards the major refurbishment of the former Yates building to turn it into a Premier Inn, also in High Street and near the railway station.

Improvements to the access and frontage of the Citizen's Advice Bureau in Corn Street and enhancements to the facades of three commercial properties in Cardiff Road are also progressing.

Meanwhile, the first project to be started as part of the programme is due for completion this summer. Construction company Willis are turning a property near the Royal Gwent Hospital into apartments for the Seren Group.

Neil Barber, Seren's director of development, said: "Seren is really pleased to be working with Newport City Council and Willis Construction to deliver one of the first major schemes to be funded under the Welsh Government's vibrant and viable places programme.

"This is such an important initiative from WG as it is making a huge difference to the ability to bring buildings which have been empty for extremely long periods back into beneficial use. This project is an excellent example as the buildings had been vacant for nearly 20 years and were falling into serious disrepair and attracting anti-social behaviour.

"This was made worse by the fact that they occupy such a prominent location next to the main entrance to the Royal Gwent Hospital and also on one of the major access roads to the city centre. We have been delighted with the support we have received from the city council to turn this eye-sore into high quality affordable apartments. The completed buildings will also include many of the original design features which will enhance the Clytha Square conservation area."

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