All systems go for Wolverhampton Westside as £50 million funding secured
The delayed Westside development will finally become a reality – with a cinema, trampoline centre, mini golf and 10-pin bowling at its heart.
Work will start later this year after developers secured £50 million in new funding.
Bosses today revealed that it was “all systems go” for the scheme, which is expected to open in mid-2021.
An as yet unnamed major cinema will be the focal point of the 40,000sq ft city centre site.
A trampoline and soft play centre is lined up along with the bowling. And there will be indoor mini-golf – all supported by at least six family restaurants.
A 600-space car park will also be built, although plans for a 100-bed hotel have been put on the back-burner.
Construction on the project had been due to start on the last summer but was put back due to concerns over investment.
Now developer Urban & Civic says it is ready to move forward with Westside, using funds from annuity pension fund companies that are looking for investment opportunities.
Philip Leech, a property director at the firm, said he had seen continued interest in the scheme over a period when Urban & Civic had “been trying to resolve various funding issues”.
He said: “With the support of the city we can now forge ahead and sign our anchor tenant, which is the cinema, and closely behind that the occupiers for the large leisure spaces.
“They will create a huge amount of footfall, not just for this scheme, but for the city as a whole. It is all systems go.”
Wolverhampton Council’s city centre regeneration manager, Peter Taylor, said: “We feel very confident that this scheme is ready to fly.
“It involves the council taking a slightly different position in terms of the shared responsibility with Urban & Civic, in ensuring a fully let scheme that performs well... that can then repay the investors.”
Mr Leech said he expected preliminary work on the site was likely to start later this year, with the main buildings starting to go up early in 2020.
He added that developers around the country had struggled to get new projects off the ground in recent years, and that there remained serious difficulties in the food and beverage sector.
But he announced that six restaurants were ready to come on board and hoped that more would follow suit.
“Wolverhampton is under-served by national names, but we are confident that once these operators start to see things happening on site we will have a strong level of commitment from them as well,” Mr Leech said.
No banks or borrowing
Fears had grown over the future of the Westside scheme after work failed to start on time last year, with some questioning whether it would fail in the same way as the aborted Summer Row development in the early 2000s.
Councillor John Reynolds, the authority’s cabinet member for city economy, said: “Summer Row was a different issue and came about during the depths of the recession.
“With this scheme we are not relying on banks or borrowing.
"The very large pension fund that Urban & Civic are dealing with are very keen to get into a scheme like this because they can see a solid return for their pensioners over the coming years.
“In that respect that makes the scheme stack up.”
The Westside development is part of a number of schemes across the city centre, which also includes up to 3,000 new homes and extensive pedestrianisation.
Potential residential sites include Coniston House, the Tarmac building, the Royal Hospital developments and the BT building.
Mr Taylor said: “We know the retail figures are likely to shrink further over the coming years. It’s about introducing new uses for parts of the city that can bring in footfall and encourage people to come here.”
The Westside plans are set to be signed off at a Cabinet meeting next week with a planning application within six months.
'The more kids the merrier': Rees-Mogg backs large families as he wades into Walsall food poverty row