A MULTIMILLION pound “gateway” to increase links to the Vaux site is planned for Sunderland city centre.
The proposals announced by the council will see major changes to the road network around the site and the creation of a new public space.
Costing an estimated £13.4million, the plan will see the transformation of St Mary’s Way into an “attractive” boulevard and the establishment of a traffic-free area known as Magistrate’s Square.
The council says the area currently gives an “unwelcoming and uninspiring image” of the city and acts as a barrier to pedestrians.
They hope that if the plan goes ahead it will help realise its vision for the Vaux site.
When completed, Magistrate’s Square – at the top of High Street West, outside the Corner Flag pub – will be able to host markets, concerts, displays, festivals and big screen events.
Improving traffic flow on St Mary’s Way will also help connect the Port of Sunderland with major routes in and out of the region, including the new bridge, which could increase the chances of new contracts in the future.
The proposals, due to be considered at a meeting tomorrow, also include the idea of a “super crossing” which will allow large numbers of pedestrians and cyclists to cross the new boulevard, giving direct access to the Vaux site.
It is believed that developers would be more likely to invest in the site after this work is completed because they would not manage to achieve a return on investment if they undertook work on St Mary’s Way themselves.
The proposed timescale will see the roadworks begin next April and completed by March 2014. Work on Magistrates’ Square will begin in April 2014 and be finished by November 2014.
Sunderland City Council acquired the Vaux site in 2011, with substantial funding from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).
Since then, work has taken place in a bid to improve the site’s appearance in the short term. This includes creating a grassed open space and temporary car park.
Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Paul Watson, said: “As we detailed in our Economic Masterplan, for Sunderland city centre to be prosperous it needs more people living and working in it, spending their time and money in its shops and restaurants.
“The Vaux site is the ideal place for a central business district and the remodelling of St Mary’s Way is important in achieving this.
“It will prepare the site for future development, simplify traffic flow and improve the connection between Vaux, the city centre and the rest of Sunderland.
“It will also accommodate any extra traffic that arises from the Vaux redevelopment.”