Why Sunderland needs to make the most of Keel Square

Keel Square, Sunderland
Keel Square, Sunderland
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How wonderful it is to see Keel Square open and forming a fantastic new focus for the city centre.

 The square has been a long time coming but I’m sure few would argue it hasn’t been worth the wait and having the art works installed makes one appreciate what a great addition to the city centre the square is.

Sunderland Football Club Commercial Director Gary Hutchinson.

Sunderland Football Club Commercial Director Gary Hutchinson.

 Now it is up to us as a city to make the most of it and the areas it has opened up – especially the Vaux site.

 Work is also progressing well on the other side of the city centre, with the development of the new college campus in the Holmeside triangle and it is exciting to think how very different the city centre will be this time next year.

 The weather may be struggling to make its mind up but summer is finally here and there are plenty of good things planned for the coming months.

 The Foo Fighters were a massive success at the Stadium of Light in May, with 50,000 people making the most of the Bank Holiday and we will welcome another 15,000 people from 90 countries to the city as we hold five days of University of Sunderland graduation ceremonies this month – then we have the airshow to look forward to.

 I cannot urge city businesses enough to be ready for the influx of visitors. Let’s show our city off in style and give our guests a great Wearside welcome.

 I’m pleased to report that partnership between businesses across the city is still working well – the Vibe magazine that every household receives is an example of the great work we are doing together on driving footfall and awareness in the city.

 We have recently opened this out to other partners to join and contribute to this agenda as we widen the scheme for the benefit of the city.

 Work is now well under way on the new Hilton hotel development next to the stadium, which will open in April.

 There is a destination bar and restaurant concept being developed, which will sit as part of the hotel- it’s an exciting new product for the city, with 141 rooms including top-class suites built in.

 The stadium itself will, of course, be hosting Barclays Premier League football again this season and preparations are already in hand.

 We are looking forward to one of our biggest trips ever with our pre-season visit to North America and kicking off at home on August 15 against Norwich. Our football operations are worth £40million to the city economy and I hope for everyone’s sake we have plenty of buzzing matchdays this season. A new addition to the city I’m particularly looking forward to is the arrival of Fat Buddha at Roker.

 This will be a great addition to the coast and it is great to see that a premium product, which has been so very successful in Durham and Newcastle, has now been attracted to Sunderland – it is a sure sign of the progress we have been making.

 Finally, I cannot end this month’s column without again mentioning Nissan.

 This month’s announcement of a £37million investment in a new press line at the factory is a huge vote of confidence in the Wearside workforce and installing a line with a minimum 25-year lifespan goes a long way to securing the factory’s future. Nissan has our full support as a chamber member and the company is a great asset for Sunderland. Thirty years in the city is no mean feat and something we should rightly celebrate.

 Our next committee meeting will be a joint session with our colleagues from the South Tyneside area. We will meet at the Stadium at 4pm on July 14 – I look forward to seeing you there.