A GROUNDBREAKING ceremony has signalled the start of a multimillion-pound development which will create a new gateway to the city centre.
Work began this morning on a major project to realign Sunderland’s St Mary’s Way, which will allow the road’s current path to become a pedestrianised area, and is seen as a step forward in efforts to redevelop the Vaux site.
Councillor Paul Watson, Sunderland City Council leader, was joined by Phil Morgan, director of operations at contractor Balfour Beatty, to break the ground as the £11.86million scheme got under way.
Funded in part by £2.34million from the European Regional Development Fund and a further £2.5million from the Growing Places Fund, the work is due to be complete by the end of 2014.
The phased development will mean while St Mary’s Way will be reduced to one lane for a time, it will never be fully closed to traffic, keeping disruption to a minimum.
“To be breaking ground on this hugely important scheme for Sunderland and the city centre is a tremendous step forward towards achieving our long-term vision, which is to have a vibrant and prosperous city centre,” said Coun Watson
“To achieve this we need more people living and working centrally, and a productive central business district, improved retail offer, new public space, and better pedestrian access on to Vaux will all support this.
“Working together I’m confident that we will deliver this ambitious scheme on time, which in turn will support the long-term economic growth and prosperity for Sunderland that is our goal.”
The council says the area has given an “unwelcoming and uninspiring image” of the city.
Communities Minister Baroness Hanham added: “European Regional Development Fund investment is supporting the redevelopment of this brownfield site, creating a distinctive identity for Sunderland and integrating the site with the rest of the city centre.
“This will accelerate commercial opportunities and remove barriers to investment.
“Creating a new and inspiring business location coupled with a high quality urban quarter will reinvigorate Sunderland city centre, generating crucial private sector investment and consequent local growth, with the potential for 4,000 jobs on site.”