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Specialist designers to help breathe new life into historic Palace Theatre

A specialist design team is to help preserve Swansea's 132-year-old Palace Theatre building for future generations.

PalaceOld

GWP Architecture will lead the Palace project as part of a highly experienced design team that includes structural, civil, mechanical and electrical engineers Hydrock and project managers and quantity surveyors TC Consult. They will work with dedicated officers of Swansea Council.

GWP Architecture are already working on three live heritage design schemes in South Wales, including the creation of a distillery and visitor centre at Swansea's Hafod Morfa Copperworks.

Robert Francis-Davies, the council's cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: "We wanted a design team that would bring creativity, dynamism and experience to this tremendous project - and that's what we have.

"GWP, Hydrock and TC Consult will help us breathe new life into a much-admired old building.

"We're preserving this landmark city centre building and now have some expert partners to help us do this.

"Our plan will help transform the High Street area - already benefiting from many millions of private investment - and will help our exciting regeneration work across the city centre."

Any work being carried out in connection with the Palace at this time will be undertaken in line with Government guidance on construction and social distancing.

The Palace, when operating as a theatre, staged performances by stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Sir Anthony Hopkins. It was last used 14 years ago as a nightclub.

The council bought the building from private owners this year and is confident that a grant bid will succeed to help make the Palace a focal point for creative businesses, complementing other city centre bases for such enterprise.

It wants to redevelop the wedge-shaped Grade 2 listed building as modern office space. The transformation will be carried out with the help of independent grant funding.

GWP Architecture director Richard Townend said: "After years of disrepair at the Palace, we will now work with the council to bring the building back to life with a modern commercial focus.

"This will help the council continue its work on redeveloping the High Street area and Swansea city centre as a whole.

"We want the Palace's renovation - for new commercial use with high-quality office space - to help make it a focal point for creative businesses, small to medium-sized enterprises and start-ups.

"We also want to retain the potential for smaller scale performances, events and conferencing."

Other projects currently on GWP's books include the creation of a mixed use community facility at the Port Talbot Plaza and a dedicated hub and library service in Abergavenny.

Extensive heritage experience by the firm also includes recent projects such as the Bombay Sapphire Distillery and Visitor Centre in Laverstoke, Hampshire. This won a Civic Trust Special Award for Sustainability. 

At the Palace, the aim is to maintain its existing structure and architectural aesthetic. The design and build programme could take around three years.

Potential business partners are being encouraged to submit ideas on how they - as lead tenant - would run or manage the Palace.

Mr Townend said: "The community can play a key role in helping give the Palace the brightest of futures. 

"We'd like the public to tell us their memories of the venue, lend us photos, plans and other information about its past.

"This information will become part of our thinking as we start drawing up new designs - and it will help preserve these recollections."

Recollections, photos and copies of other Palace memorabilia can be shared with the project's new Facebook page - www.facebook.com/PalaceTheatreRedevelopment/.

  • The next few weeks will see surveys and some other work take place at the Palace, with some already underway. This will include a look at underground services and drone filming of the exterior. The work will require a temporary road closure to Bethesda Street for five days from April 20. Diversions will be signposted. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the personnel will observe social distancing regulations and their activity will be monitored by council officers.
  • GWP - www.gwp-arch.com
  • Hydrock - www.hydrock.com
  • TC Consult - www.tc-consult.co.uk/

The Palace Theatre

  • The Palace occupies a triangular site bounded by High Street, Prince of Wales Road and Bethesda Street around 200m from Swansea's main railway station
  • Stars to have performed there include: Charlie Chaplin, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Ken Dodd
  • Designed as a music hall, the building originally opened in 1888 as Swansea Pavilion
  • Commissioned by the Swansea Improvements and Tramway Company and designed architect Alfred Bucknall, of Bucknall and Jennings from Swansea, it was built for £10,000
  • In 1908 it was converted to a cinema, becoming a full-time cinema by 1912
  • By 1923, it had reverted back to live theatre.
  • After 1932, it went back into full time cinema use
  • Due to a fire in 1949, it was unused until its restoration in 1952
  • In 1954 it again reverted back to live theatre
  • In 1967, it became a bingo club, however may have been used for bingo from 1961
  • By the 1970s, up until 1991, it was a private club
  • From 1992 to 2006, it operated as a nightclub
  • It has been unused since 2007

Photo: Swansea's Palace Theatre building as it was in days gone by.

 


 

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