WORK is under way on Sunderland’s flagship £10million Software Centre.
Contractors have been on site for the last couple of weeks, digging out the massive foundations of the old Tavistock Place multi-storey car park before construction work could begin.
City council leader Coun Paul Watson and Sunderland Software City boss Bernie Callaghan were on site to see work start.
Mr Callaghan said: “This is a big day for Sunderland Software City.
“To actually see the ground being broken on such an important development is really exciting. The Software City project is not just about the infrastructure – but that helps.
“This is going to be a fantastic place for software entrepreneurs to begin building their businesses.”
Mr Callaghan had flown in from a Software City trade delegation to the U.S. in time for the ground-breaking ceremony.
“I have just stepped off a plane from America, where we had eight software companies representing Sunderland. If you had told me two years ago that would be possible, I would not have believed you,” he said.
Coun Watson said the development of projects such as the Software Centre was critical to the success of the city council’s economic masterplan, which has made a priority of creating more jobs in the city centre.
“This is the culmination of a long, hard process that Sunderland City Council and Software City have been through,” he said.
“It is very, very pleasing to see building work start in the centre of the city. The economic masterplan prioritises the city centre and this is an important first step to achieving our ambitions for a prosperous city.”
The centre, which is due to open next year, aims to bring 140 jobs to the city. The 53,000 sq ft development will have state-of-the-art accommodation for 60 software businesses, as well as exhibition space, showing visitors in a fun and interactive way, the role software plays in their lives.
More than 50 software businesses are already active in Sunderland at existing hi-tech facilities such as the city council’s Evolve business centre at Rainton Bridge, Business Centre, and the Jupiter Centre at the North East Business and Innovation Centre.
Lynsey Robinson, One North East’s Service Sector Manager, said: “The construction of the Software Centre is a key milestone in the Sunderland Software City project. This facility will become a hub for software development not only in the North East, but across the UK.
“I am delighted One North East was able to support this vitally important project which strengthens the city’s growing reputation for software development and is an excellent addition to this part of Sunderland’s on-going regeneration.”
The new building is being part financed with a £4.75million grant from the European Regional Development Fund, secured through regional development agency One North East, which is also contributing £2.95million to the project. Sunderland City Council is contributing £2.6million.