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Progress made on Swansea's historic Palace Theatre

Progress is being made as Swansea Council continues its work to bring new life to the city centre's historic Palace Theatre building.

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Specialist designers have been shown around the 132-year-old structure's distressed interior with a view to them bidding to expertly and sensitively transform the building.

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

In the past few months the council completed the acquisition of the building from its private owners.

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.

Council leader Rob Stewart said: "Progress is being made on this challenging but incredibly exciting project.

"We're preserving this landmark city centre building for future generations and want expert partners to help us do this.

"The Palace is one of the city centre's architectural treasures and now that it's in our hands we're confident in its prospects.

"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."

Robert Francis-Davies, the council's cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: "The architects and designers we've shown around are excited by the possibilities of the Palace. It's a remarkable building that, although terribly down-at-heel inside, is structurally sound.

"There's growing demand for top class office space in the city centre - and the new Palace could bring work opportunities and space for business start-ups and SMEs in the tech and creative industries. It will be a highly desirable location and a great partner to nearby regeneration.

"Our £135m Swansea Central Phase One is moving ahead, compete with the indoor arena, the £12m Kingsway transformation is nearing completion and plans are progressing for our digital village and other major schemes."

The Palace, when operating as a theatre, staged performances by stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Morecambe and Wise. It was last used 13 years ago as a nightclub.

A private sector-led scheme to regenerate it began four years ago but grant support for redevelopment did not materialise.

Emergency repair work was carried out but the distinctive building, which has three towers and rises to four storeys, is now in an advanced state of dereliction, with protective fencing around its base.

Discussions this summer between the owners, council and others determined that the only option was for the council to acquire the Palace and bid for significant grant support.

The council bought the building 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.

The council is now seeking to identify suitable partners to help redevelop it as office accommodation, and there is scope to include conference and performance facilities. The council would then manage the building and generate revenue to exceed its own outlay on the building work.

Its existing structure and architectural aesthetic would be maintained.

The design and build programme could take around three years.

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, Morecambe and Wise
  • 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 today.

Sell2Wales Notice for those interested in operating the Palace building

 

 

 

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