May 1, 2020
Piercing the Sunderland skyline, towering above all else around it, the Northern Spire has come to symbolise a new level of ambition that is growing day-by-day on Wearside.
Cranes in the sky also point to change; and if the number of large yellow excavators dotted around Sunderland represents the scale of transformation underway, then it’s clear this is a cityscape that is rapidly changing.
A £100 million commitment from investment giant Legal & General last November underlined an unprecedented year for Sunderland. The first building on its new Riverside Sunderland urban quarter, The Beam, secured its first occupier – global grocery giant Ocado – and plans were announced for the second building on the former Vaux Brewery site; a new City Hall, that will bring together a range of public sector organisations including the city council under one roof.
“It’s an incredible time to be part of the team driving the development of Sunderland,” says Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council.
“And, certainly, when we made the announcement with L&G last year, we knew very definitely that this would be transformational for the city – that it was the start of Sunderland realising the vast potential it has long-possessed.
“I’ve always believed Sunderland has a great deal of promise, and we are seeing that translate into action now. The momentum we have achieved in recent months has put us on a really firm footing as a city and though – like other places across the country and indeed around the world – we will face challenges as we emerge from the coronavirus crisis, emerge we will – with a clear vision that will drive us forward.”
If Riverside Sunderland is the epicentre of the transformation of the city, then its impact is certainly being felt further afield. With a programme of city centre developments – from new office spaces, including the recently-announced revamp of Gilbridge Police Station being led by Hanro; to new leisure spaces, including a 450-seater auditorium that will stand proudly alongside the Empire Theatre; as well as major job- creating projects like the International Advanced Manufacturing Park, that will become the base for manufacturers who between them will employ thousands of people – the change that is underway in Sunderland has given housebuilders confidence to invest in the city.
Last year, Story Homes announced a £90 million commitment to Sunderland, in a move that will see it build more than 400 homes in the city. And others are following. Karbon is delivering a £20 million scheme in North Hylton, Miller and Avant Homes both have schemes underway on the city’s coastline, and more plans are emerging for Sunderland South, with two further phases of Potters Hill – a site close to Sunderland’s Doxford International Business Park – set to be delivered.
“It’s not surprising that we’re attracting major housebuilders to Sunderland,” Councillor Miller continues.
“They can see that the city is transforming and that more and more families can see the opportunities here for them – we have great employment opportunities, fantastic natural assets like plenty of green parks and open spaces, stunning beaches and a city centre that is set to be bolstered by more places to enjoy.
“Sunderland’s a brilliant place to live, and if we can create a diverse housing mix, we’ll be able to attract more families, of all kinds, to the city.”
The council is also working up plans to develop new communities, in a game- changing move that will see it build its own design-led social housing for the first time in decades.
“We have set aside £59 million to begin a programme that will deliver permanent spaces to pop up events, the aim is clear – this must be a place people visit to enjoy.
“We know that people are looking for exciting places to explore and enjoy and that’s something we are keen to deliver,” Councillor Miller continues.
“We’re incredibly fortunate that Sunderland is blessed with an enviable coastline and great family-friendly parks. We want to build the leisure offer, and boost the evening economy in the heart of the city, creating more reasons for residents to come and enjoy it, as well as our seaside with developments like the STACK and Inn Collection Group inn with rooms that are coming soon, and the ancillary leisure venues we have across Sunderland. Added to that are
transformational new communities – social housing that is design-led, sustainable and that will ensure that residents in this city have access to the best life chances,” the leader of Sunderland City Council adds.
Along with housing, leisure is something the council is keen to ensure that Sunderland has in abundance. From the fantastic events that visitors and residents alike have come to expect from us. There is no questioning our ambition and we are fulfilling it.”
There’s no doubt that Sunderland is emerging as a force to be reckoned with. And just like its iconic new Wear crossing, it seems this is a place that is ready to let its light shine.
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