A team of leading property professionals is to help Swansea Council create a community hub in an existing city centre building.
They are experts in design, architecture, engineering, project and cost management.
The team will help the council transform the former BHS and What! building, in Oxford Street, into a multi-purpose venue offering a range of key public services.
This will secure jobs in the city centre, increase footfall for nearby businesses and give long-term use to a prominent building. It will help the city tackle the economic shock of the pandemic.
Led by project and cost management specialists Coreus Group, the community hub team includes architects Austin Smith Lord, mechanical and electrical engineers SDS, structural engineers Jubb and principal designer PHD Property Advisory.
Three of the businesses (note: Coreus Group, Austin Smith Lord & Jubb) have offices in South Wales.
Council leader Rob Stewart said:
“Our multi-disciplinary design team will work with council officers on this major project. They are a high-calibre team with great experience in developing top quality public spaces.
“We want to give residents easier access to services than ever before, avoid the cost of building a new structure, reduce overheads and help revitalise the city centre that’s already undergoing a £1bn regeneration.
“Our new community hub will be accessible, conveniently located and digitally enabled; we think the former BHS is ideal as it’s within minutes walking distance of city centre shops, services, car parking and public transport routes.
“It will provide access to all and provide a range of services in a welcoming environment where people can meet and participate in social activities, learning and support groups.
“It will provide agile accommodation for third, public and private sector companies that endorse the ethos of a community hub. Flexible, collaborative space will encourage a coordinated approach in improving the quality of people’s lives.”
Duties to be undertaken by the design team – selected through a competitive tender process – include conducting a feasibility study of how the building can host its proposed services then devising innovative and flexible solutions for the transformation.
Coreus Group regional director James Colthart said:
“We are extremely excited to be involved in such an important scheme, which is part of the council’s ongoing investment in the regeneration of the city centre.
“Our specialist team are immensely passionate about rejuvenating existing buildings and finding new, innovative ways to meet the needs of the local community.
“We are looking forward to collaborating closely with the authority and key stakeholders to create an exceptional, quality public building in the heart of the city.”
The council has acquired the leasehold interest in the former BHS building and will refurbish the premises with the aim of opening as a community hub in 2023.
The building was identified as a potential location for the community hub as store owners recently told the council that they planned to vacate that site and focus their retail efforts at other Swansea locations.
The council is analysing public survey responses and will use them to inform plans for the building. The proposals are at an early stage and no decisions have yet been made.
The aim is for the community hub to house a number of council services with a direct public-facing function, plus some other key non-council services. It could house a library, local studies centre and archive, family history centre, life-long learning centre, community and activity space, and an employability hub.
It could offer community events, opportunities for community engagement and a focal point for people to meet.
It will boost community cohesion, offer opportunities for self-development and growth, and will boost digital inclusion, well-being and unity.