Due to open next year, Bell Street Box Space in Wolverhampton will be a designated leisure and hospitality area featuring food vendors, licensed premises and space for entrepreneurial start-up companies to move into. It could even see big events like the Euros or Wimbledon shown on big screens there, councillors have suggested.
The box space will also support the official reopening of the Civic Halls in June this year, which will bring hundreds of thousands of visitors a year to the city centre and boost the local economy by more than £10 million annually.
Councillor Steve Evans, cabinet member for city environment and climate change, said: “This is enabling us to create something that we should celebrate, because Bell Street Box Space will be another superb addition to our city. What we are talking about is a food and beverage park that young people will like and want to access, and my younger colleague Councillor Chris Burden will confirm this.
“A lot of younger people do like to go to places that are a little bit different to some of the places I might frequent, and I don’t blame them. So I’m really looking forward to this scheme coming to fruition. We’ve worked extremely hard to enable the funding for this through the Future High Street Fund.
“These type of box spaces, using shipping container-style cabins, are hugely popular in other areas of the country such as Newcastle, London, Sheffield and Sunderland and will be a superb addition, complementing Wolverhampton’s existing leisure, events and evening economy.
“The Neville Garratt Centre, which is in Bell Street, at the moment houses adult services. But that doesn’t mean they can’t relocate to somewhere else as it is an office-led service. The freehold for the centre is owned by the NHS and they don’t charge us a lease or any rent at the moment, but they are going to,” he added.
“However, an opportunity has arisen whereby we could purchase the freehold for the centre, which sits right in the middle of the Bell Street Box Space project. And because we own numbers 1-7a Cleveland Street, which backs onto Bell Street, we can demolish those no problem. The car park is also ours, but the Neville Garratt Centre isn’t.
“What a great opportunity to make this project really successful, visually look the part and avoid paying rent on a facility we don’t own. So we aspire to purchase the freehold on the centre by the end of this month. Should we be successful in doing so, then in two phases we will be able to demolish it and then create the Bell Street Box Space.”
“It makes absolutely perfect business and strategy sense. Nobody should be emotionally attached to bricks and mortar, particularly if it’s office space. That doesn’t matter if you’re at the Civic Centre or the Neville Garratt Centre. What people should be welded to is creating something that is going to boost this city,” said Cllr Evans.
Councillor Chris Burden, cabinet member for education, skills and work, said: “I was speaking to some catering students at the college in Bilston the other day, and they were saying how much they would like to start up their own businesses. These young students will graduate from this college and they will need somewhere to work.”
“What can we give them as a council? We can give them a captive audience, somewhere they will get their food licences, their alcohol licences and their trading licences. We can put them in a self-contained unit where they will be able to rent from us – a non-parochial, non-aggressive landlord.
“This project has already captured the public’s attention. A lot of my constituents have emailed me to say how excited they are about it. People have been saying ‘imagine if we could have a big screen up here for the Euros or Wimbledon and the golf on’. People are talking about this before it has even been built and they are wanting to do business there.” Cabinet resources members all voted in favour of the proposals.