Massive investment announced for Sunderland Riverside
Business leaders from across the North East have welcomed news of a £100m investment in Sunderland Riverside, a new urban district in Sunderland’s city centre.
Legal & General, one of the world’s largest investment managers announced on Thursday, November 21, that it has backed an extensive masterplan for the regeneration of Sunderland’s city centre, after agreeing a deal with Sunderland City Council.
Legal & General’s commitment will deliver three buildings on the former Vaux Brewery site and form part of the wider Riverside Sunderland regeneration project, being hailed as transformational for the local area.
And business leaders from across Sunderland, and the North East, have been quick to welcome the news.
Helen Golightly, chief executive of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP), said: “The development of THE BEAM which lies at the heart of this major regeneration site, was supported by grant funding of £10.8m from the Government’s Local Growth Deal.
“Today’s announcement is a fantastic boost for the city of Sunderland, and another very significant demonstration that the North East is an incredibly investible region.”
It was a sentiment echoed by James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East England Chamber of Commerce. He said: “We, in the North East, know all of Sunderland’s merits, but to attract investment on this scale today shows that the message is permeating beyond the region.
“We’re thrilled to see yet-more positivity surrounding the former Vaux site in Sunderland – it is clear that there is quite a buzz about this part of Sunderland, and that’s translating into major investment announcements that will not only boost the city but will boost the entire region.”
Legal & General identified the ‘vast potential’ it has seen in the council’s plans for Sunderland as the key driver for its investment and its commitment will act as a catalyst to realise the visionary plan for both sides of the Wear.
Nigel Wilson, CEO of Legal & General, said: “Sunderland City Council has drawn up a visionary plan for Sunderland; a city ripe for economic growth, having historically lagged behind its Northern neighbours. As seen with our other Future Cities investments in areas such as Oxford, Leeds, Bristol, Newcastle and Cardiff, a long term patient capital injection can completely transform towns and cities. This can have a direct social impact, creating real jobs and supporting real wage increases, whilst creating a virtuous circle by generating income to pay pensioners.
“This is Inclusive Capitalism at its best. We hope our investment today will accelerate regeneration plans for Sunderland, attracting further capital to support the vast potential of this city.”
Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council, Patrick Melia, said the investment represented a ‘serious vote of confidence’ in Sunderland, something that had been secured thanks to the ambition and vision of the council, which now leads on the city’s development plans having taken full control of Siglion earlier this year.
He said: “Make no mistake, today’s announcement is the single most significant investment story to come out of Sunderland for decades.
“We are absolutely delighted that the vision we have created for this city is attracting the enthusiasm, support and most importantly financial backing of one of the world’s most significant investors.
“L&G’s backing will allow us to supercharge plans to transform our city centre, creating a magnet destination that will attract more people to live, work and play here. Sunderland has been something of a sleeping giant, but it has awoken, and we’re absolutely determined to ensure this city realises every bit of its vast potential.”
The news follows a series of positive investment announcements. Ocado announced plans to open a base in Sunderland just weeks after work on THE BEAM had completed, and a second tenant, Penshaw View, has also taken space on the ground floor as it looks forward to expansion. The second phase of work on the development-site has seen work on a new City Hall for Sunderland get underway.
Among other exciting new city centre developments is a 120-room Holiday Inn hotel on Keel Square; a 450-seater auditorium, that is now under construction in the city’s Minster Quarter; a new business centre, in the former River Wear Commissioners Building as well as announcements in Seaburn of a STACK development and proposals for a pub with rooms from the Inn Collection Group.
Andy Bradley, centre director at the Bridges shopping centre, said: “The Bridges is the heart of the city’s retail scene, but a strong shopping centre benefits from a strong business community close by, and ancillary leisure that people can enjoy alongside their retail experience.
“The announcement today of more investment coming into Sunderland, is hugely welcome. Sunderland has immense potential – everyone can see that – and this will unlock some of that. With more commercial space close by, we will see new businesses create jobs here, bringing wealth into our city centre. Along with plans for more housing in Sunderland, the increased spending power will bring real benefits to existing traders in the city, and will also go some way towards attracting new ones.”
Paul Swinney, a Sunderland-born economist from the Centre for Cities, said: “In recent years high paid, high skilled jobs have increasingly been looking for a city centre location. This is why improving the attractiveness of Sunderland city centre is so crucial, which is what the plans unveiled today aim to achieve.
“Sunderland needs a centre that is firing to put more money in the pockets of people who live in and around the city and to help it to make a larger contribution to the national economy too.
“And it’s only this way – by getting more jobs in the city centre – will we see an improvement in the high street too. Shops, bars and restaurants need a steady flow of customers. The development of the Vaux site will be a key part of this.
Philippa Breckon, director at Penshaw View – an expanding training provider and health and safety business which recently moved into THE BEAM – said: “There is a growing sense of ambition and momentum in Sunderland right now and we’re delighted to be part of it.
“Having spaces like THE BEAM, in the heart of the city centre, is critical to not only attracting but retaining the best businesses, and with them jobs and spending power that will boost the whole area. As more office developments emerge - as Riverside Sunderland takes shape and the investment announced today is realised – the ready-availability of high-quality office spaces will further strengthen Sunderland’s position as a leading place for business and will ensure that companies like ours are not forced to look outside of the city as they expand.”
Other leaders to get behind the vision included Ellen Thinnesen, chief executive of Education Partnership North East, which includes Sunderland College, and chair of Sunderland Business Partnership. She said: “This is a city that is taking control of its own destiny and driving change through positive, proactive development.
“Sunderland College made a £30m+ investment in City Campus just three years ago, and during the period that’s followed, the rate of change in the city centre has been gathering pace. Today’s announcement is hugely significant and I’m thrilled to see yet-more investment flow into the city.”
Sir David Bell, vice chancellor at the University of Sunderland, said: “Sunderland needs a strong, vibrant university in order to be a successful city, and the university needs a strong, vibrant Sunderland to be an attractive destination for students and staff – there is no doubt, we are mutually dependent.
“The recent run of great announcements about the city centre are creating a very positive buzz. From the development of the auditorium to the 300 new jobs being created on the former Vaux Brewery site, Sunderland really feels like a place to do business. Add to that the university’s own investment in a medical school, which opened in September, the plan to connect both sides of the Wear with a pedestrian footbridge, and major development around Sheepfolds and the riverside to the south, then you see a totally different place emerging. In summary, a larger, more dynamic city centre where people can live, work, study and play.
“I welcome today’s announcement. It is a highly significant, and hugely positive, day for Sunderland.”