Even those who have visited Sunderland in the past may have missed the fact that its city centre is nestled right on a cliff’s edge, with green hills rolling down to the riverside below. The sudden drop - from the former Vaux Brewery site – means that you could be forgiven for missing the close proximity of the River Wear. It’s simply not in plain sight.
But now, thanks to a £100m surge from investment powerhouse, Legal & General, Riverside Sunderland is the name on the lips of businesses keen to claim a stake in this prime location, just seconds from the heart of the city centre. And the scale of opportunity is now clear for all to see. Peter McIntyre, executive director of ciy development at Sunderland City Council explains.
“£100m of committed investment from Legal & General will catapult development projects that will absolutely transform Riverside Sunderland from baron land into a vibrant hotbed of business; a modern, urban residential community; and an extension of the leisure offer in the heart of Sunderland.
“And – as has always been the way – when a city attracts the attention of one of the world’s largest investment managers, it creates a buzz of confidence that sends ripples through the investment world. Already, this is generating unprecedented interest in Sunderland.
“Legal & General’s commitment – which we announced in November - will deliver three buildings on the former Vaux Brewery site and form part of the wider Riverside Sunderland regeneration project, that will be transformational for the local area. It follows the completion of The Beam, which has been a hugely successful venture for the council – a figurative ‘starting gun’ on the renewal of a pocket of the city that can stimulate the rebirth of the whole of Sunderland’s heartland.
“The Beam in itself sent a statement to Legal & General – of renewed confidence and civic leadership; the council putting its money into a development that it absolutely believed would kick off transformation. And when we followed up with news of its first occupier – Ocado, a £1bn+ business – that really was the vote of confidence we needed to show investors that they can be absolutely confident when they back Sunderland with their cash.
“Legal & General identified the ‘vast potential’ it had seen in the council’s plans for Sunderland as the key driver for its investment, which will deliver three new commercial buildings, comprising up to 300,000 sq ft of Grade A office space including the new Sunderland City Hall.
“And make no mistake, the announcement is the single most significant investment story to come out of Sunderland for decades. One that we can already see is driving not only optimism within the city, but interest from outside it.
“Legal & General’s backing will allow us to supercharge plans to transform our city centre, creating a magnet destination that will attract more people to live, work and play here. We’re clear – our city centre must become an economic motor for Sunderland.
“The investment we have attracted represents a huge, huge step forward, but there’s more to come. We are absolutely determined to create the healthy, dynamic and vibrant city our residents deserve and want to see, and we will keep building on each success, to transform Sunderland and create a place where people can be proud to live, work and do business.”
The news of Legal & General’s investment follows a string of positive investment announcements for Sunderland. Ocado revealed plans to open a base in Sunderland just weeks after work on The Beam had completed, and has started to move a team into its base. A second tenant, Penshaw View, has also taken space on the ground floor as it looks forward to expansion and further announcements are expected soon. The second phase of work in the area will see a new City Hall for Sunderland get underway – work has started on the building, which will act as a public sector hub housing resident support services.
Among other exciting new city centre developments is a 120-room Holiday Inn hotel on Keel Square; a 450-seater auditorium, that is now under construction in the city’s Minster Quarter; renewal of historic buildings, like the transformation of Mackies Corner, the Elephant Tearooms and the River Wear Commissioners Building as well as announcements in Seaburn of a STACK development and a pub with rooms from the Inn Collection Group.
This above article featured as our front cover and lead story in Portfolio Magazine. Read the full magazine here