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Work to start in autumn on former Swansea BHS to house library, archives and other council services

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Plans for a new central Swansea location for the city’s main library, archive service and other key services have taken a major step forward.

The council have appointed building firm Kier Construction as the main contractor to deliver the next stage of design and enabling works, to help transform Oxford Street’s former BHS/What! building into a community hub featuring council and community services.

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The council say that work will be starting in earnest in the autumn to transform the building to offer people convenient access to key services from across the council and other organisations.

Council leader Rob Stewart said: “The transformation of this building is hugely exciting. It’s really good news that Kier Construction are on board with this project.

“They are one of Britain’s leading construction companies with huge experience in converting existing buildings for new uses. As part of the contract, Kier has made a commitment to support local jobs and skills by hiring staff and apprentices locally.

He said: “Kier helped us build the Bay Field Hospital for the NHS during the pandemic against very tight deadlines and were responsible for improvements at YG Gwyr and YGG Tan-y-Lan which have been warmly welcomed by pupils and parents alike.

“The community hub will create a fantastic new library and local services hub in the city centre, right next to the planned new Castle Square Gardens which is currently out to consultation ahead of consideration by the planning committee.

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“There will be tangible benefits for the community and the council through the relocation of the library and archive services as well as a number of other key public and third party support services into a single building with an open and welcoming environment.”

Cllr Stewart said: “The project will be a fine example of sustainable city centre redevelopment, reinvigorating existing buildings, and reducing carbon use in the fight against climate change.

“Between them the current Central Library and archive services get around 300,000 visitors a year – that’s a lot of extra footfall that will boost city centre shopping and jobs on top of the benefits of the arena and Castle Square, which is subject to planning approval.”

Jason Taylor, Kier Construction, regional director, for Kier Construction, said: “We are thrilled to be working with Swansea Council on another project that will support the local community. We will soon be commencing the enabling works for the new Swansea Community Hub scheme, which is located in the city centre and will provide important facilities for local people.

“With a strong track record of delivering social value in partnership with Swansea Council, this project provides a wonderful opportunity for Kier to continue our work in the area.

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“Throughout the construction works, we’ll work closely with residents, local organisations and schools to provide jobs, training and work experience opportunities as well as work with our local supply chain to deliver this important project.”

James Colthard, regional director of Coreus, added: “As the lead consultant on this hugely important regeneration project, Coreus is extremely excited to be moving into the next phase of design following an extensive tender period.

“Congratulations to Kier, who we look forward to collaborating closely with to deliver a scheme that will not only revitalise Swansea’s city centre, but also paves the way for further growth and investment in the region.”

Artist’s impression of new Community Hub planned for Princess Way – featuring a green wall (Image: Swansea Council)

Designs by architects Austin-Smith:Lord Ltd  – on behalf of Swansea Council – reveal a new look for the former BHS/What! building.

Designers say the appearance of the structure – built in the 1950s – will have impact appropriate to a public building, with open and active shop frontages to maintain vibrancy to Oxford St and Princess Way.

The ground floor exterior is largely windows and that upper floors feature large glazed openings to show activity and a welcoming ethos.

Cladding will give the building a more consistent look than at present. Translucent cladding could be backlit to act as a beacon to help attract visitors.

Special attention has been paid to the transfer of the West Glamorgan Archive Service from its current home at the Civic Centre to ensure it’s a welcoming place for visitors and its treasure trove of historical documents are looked after.

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The council say that more public consultation is scheduled in the coming months.

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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