A £135m South Wales regeneration scheme took two big steps forward last week.
A preferred bidder was announced for the Swansea Central Phase One hotel site. They are the nationally renowned premium hotel operator, Cairn Group, which is in discussions with a number of international hotel brands for the site.
And the design of the scheme's landmark bridge was unveiled. It is a playful and spectacular gold-coloured interpretation of a striking swan figure. It was designed by respected Swansea artist Marc Rees in collaboration with contemporary architect, ACME.
Swansea Central Phase One is being developed by Swansea Council as a catalyst for wider city centre regeneration. It includes a 3,500-capacity indoor arena, new parkland, almost 1,000 new car parking spaces, commercial units and more than 30 homes.
It is due to be open in the second half of next year. World-leading theatre company ATG will run the arena.
Key funding assistance has come from the £1.3bn Swansea Bay City Deal – for the arena – and from the Welsh Government's Active Travel Fund for the bridge.
Swansea Central Phase Two is due to follow, delivering office space, homes, retail and leisure.
Council leader Rob Stewart said:
“This is another big day in this transformative project, part of our £1bn-plus rebuilding of the city centre, something the people of Swansea have wanted for a long time.
“I'm delighted to welcome partners here for the latest major announcements and to update them on the exciting progress we've made since the start of main construction work in November.
“I'm pleased to announce we have selected our preferred bidder for the new hotel site – Cairn Group are the best in the business in running top class hotels, including venues for big brands such as Hilton, IHG and Accor. This again demonstrates our promise to bring global brands to Swansea.
“The bridge design by Marc Rees, created in collaboration with top rate architects ACME, will provide a dramatic, eye catching new gateway to Swansea. It's fun, outward looking and forward thinking.
“Swansea Central Phase One will help us become one of the most exciting places in the UK to live, work, study and enjoy.”
Swansea Central Phase One is being built near the hugely popular LC leisure centre over both sides of the busy Oystermouth Road. The new broad bridge – up to 12m wide – will link the two halves of the expansive site and will provide a strong link between city and sea.
Key business involved include development manager RivingtonHark and principal contractor Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd.
The new hotel will have 150 rooms and will overlook the arena and Marina. Designs of the new hotel will be released in the coming weeks.
Neeraj Handa, director of the Cairn Group, said:
“The opportunity in Swansea is huge.
“The new arena alone is set to attract over 230,000 visitors a year to the city, from business visitors using the new conferencing facilities to holiday-makers taking in a show.
“The major improvements across the city, teamed with the remarkable local beaches and attractions, will ensure Swansea becomes an unrivalled destination to visit in the UK, and the demand for quality hotel rooms will boost the current supply.
“Added attractions will include a gym for hotel guests, alongside a public bar and restaurant, adding a new dimension to Swansea's evening offer.”
The bridge will stand around 6m above the main road. It will range in width from12m to 6m, will be 6m high and 49m long. It will be lit inside by colour-changing LED lights.
The swan design was the idea of artist Marc Rees, commissioned for the bridge design task by the council.
The origami-style steel cutouts clearly feature swan shapes but there's also a spirited abstract edge to them.
They'll let in light and offer attention-grabbing patterns in the steel itself and on the floor; these will stimulate discussion and the interest of those such as local children enjoying the bridge with families and friends.
Marc Rees said:
“The council wanted the design to reflect an authentic local voice and I hope I bring that along with a compelling artistic edge.
“Working on the design with ACME has been exciting. I settled on an origami-style pattern because I wanted the bridge to have a playfulness reflecting its proximity to the arena and park.
“I chose swans because they represent forward movement and change; they also, of course, have a strong Swansea association.
“The bridge represents the transition from the past to the future. It symbolises Swansea's aspiration to evolve, grow, flourish and become even more exciting but still very much rooted in a sense of place.”
Friedrich Ludewig, director at ACME, said:
“We're delighted that the design of the bridge for pedestrians and cyclists has been unveiled.
“The structure will seamlessly connect the city centre with the arena and Marina, and will become a stepping stone to connect to the beach. ACME has designed the bridge to celebrate the city through the form and appearance of the bridge.
“The pattern on the side panels is inspired by the silhouette of swans, the result of a close collaboration with the Wales-based artist Marc Rees.
“The selected colour and lighting acknowledges the historical link Swansea has to the local copper industry and is complementary to the digital facade of Swansea arena.”
UK Government Minister for Wales David TC Davies said:
“The UK Government is working to bring greater investment and growth to communities across Wales and funding the redevelopment of Swansea city centre as part of the Swansea Bay City Deal represents real progress in achieving those aims.
“Working hand-in-hand with local government and business, we will help create new and exciting economic opportunities to unleash the potential of south west Wales.”
Lee Waters, Welsh Government Deputy Economy and Transport Minister, said:
“I'm pleased the Welsh Government has helped to fund these improvements.
“The Swansea Bay City Deal will deliver genuine economic growth, and our active travel fund is designed to help local authorities be ambitious and deliver a culture change in how people undertake shorter journeys. Combined they should bring real benefits to Swansea and south-west Wales.”
Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, the Rt Hon Jake Berry MP, said:
“This Government is committed to uniting and levelling up the whole of the UK by ensuring there is prosperity and opportunity for people everywhere.
“Our multi-million pound investment in the Swansea Bay City Deal shows this commitment in action and these important milestones will create tourist attractions, attract investment and unleash the potential of the area.”
Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd project director Tim Wood said:
“We have been working closely with Marc Rees and ACME to develop the detailed construction and structural designs for the bridge.
“Our aim is to ensure that the finished bridge delivers the architectural, aesthetic qualities that are required and that it creates a stunning visual gateway to Swansea.”
Mark Williams, executive director of RivingtonHark, said:
“Landowners and developers need to be considering how they adapt our cities to cater for changing behaviours in the way we use and engage with our urban landscapes.
“Swansea Central is a truly mixed-use scheme that will provide new spaces within the city for a huge range of audiences, from the local community to growing businesses and holiday-makers. It is more than the sum of its parts. It is a new urban neighbourhood for people.”
The existing Oystermouth Road footbridge is due to be removed shortly.