Traders hopeful Swansea's centre revamp will provide boost

Oxford Street

Traders have said they are hopeful a massive regeneration of Swansea city centre will boost its fortunes.

The centre has been in decline for many years but large parts including Kingsway and St Davids are to be revamped.

There would also be new retail units, a cafe quarter and a 3,500-capacity arena, with more plans in the pipeline.

If all work goes ahead, one business which left the centre in September 2018, said it would consider returning.

"The city centre doesn't look very appealing but all the work they are doing sounds great," said Georgia Herbert, who ran The Crepe Vine on Whitewalls for six years.

"A lot of shops started shutting and there's so much online shopping.

"The footfall was so bad. In the last few months we were there, it dropped and dropped.

"Swansea will be good but unfortunately for us it wasn't quick enough. In two years time when it's all up and running, if we can find a property and have the money, we may come back."

Coffee giant Starbucks closed its only city centre store late last year saying it constantly reviews its stores performances to ensure they "contribute to a healthy business growth".

However it did not indicate if it would consider returning in the future.

Kingsway has been particularly hard-hit over the last 10 years with its nightlife disappearing and many retail units left empty.

Image caption Swansea's Kingsway is undergoing a £12m redevelopment

The controversial introduction of a bendy bus road system in 2009 was blamed on a drop in trade by businesses. It was scrapped in 2015 following two deaths and a number of injuries.

Work on Kingsway is already under way with it being reduced to two lanes and one side of the road turned into a pedestrianised urban park over the next few months at a cost of £12m.

"When the metro system went in, 78% of businesses on the Kingsway have folded or closed in 10 years," claimed Richard Jones who has run clothes shop Moda through that period.

"I think the opportunity for an urban boulevard and park area are exciting, but it's been a long old slog since they started all of the road works."

Charles Fencott, moved his Salty Beards barber shop from the suburbs to Kingsway in the last year, and believes his "bold move" will pay off.

"It's certainly been a bit dated, a bit unloved, but now with all of the work which is going on you can already see it taking shape," he said. "We're all really excited to see what's to come."

"It would seem there's a lot more investment coming into the Kingsway and Swansea so on the larger scale, it certainly suggests it's going to succeed and will be a greater success than efforts in the past."

Other developments across the city centre include a 3,500-capacity arena with coastal park and hotel to be completed in 2020 and would be linked by a "digital bridge" over Oystermouth Road to the St Davids site which would have commercial and residential units in another two years, costing a total of about £120m.

Another phase of the regeneration could also include a "city beach" area with aquarium and science centre on land currently occupied by the civic centre.

Image copyright Swansea council
Image caption A 3,500-seater arena by the leisure centre is the main part of the first phase of regeneration costing £100m

Swansea council leader Rob Stewart previously said the city centre "was dying on its feet" and that Kingsway "could not be any worse off" but he hopes the regeneration work will bring it back to life.

"We are on track with the Kingsway development," he said.

"There's a really positive impact it's having with investment. A number of large buildings have changed hands and have been successful with planning to restore retail units and living accommodation.

"Investment across the city centre is part of the strategy. There's a lot of untapped potential in Swansea.

"We have to create the right mix of people working, shopping and enjoying."

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