Sunderland BID: Investment generates the rise of Park Lane
It's the gateway to the city for those arriving by bus and now it seems one of Sunderland's often overlooked areas is starting to rise again.
Park Lane has seen more than its fair share of changes over the last three decades, but thanks to recent investments and an interest from new businesses, it could be about to turn a corner.
Once upon a time, Park Lane and its surrounding area were a huge part of the city’s nightlife, with bars and nightclubs and even two cinemas just metres apart on Holmeside.
But by the late 90s, it was starting to decline as many of the cafes, shops and nightspots closed their doors. The area became little more than a walkthrough between the Interchange and the Bridges, with little other footfall.
However, those businesses which have managed to stand the test of time are now being joined by new arrivals and slowly but surely the area is picking up.
“Park Lane is an area which is now attracting a lot of new attention,” explained Sharon Appleby, Head of Business Operations at Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID).
“It’s a key location thanks to its proximity to the Interchange, which means people can come in and enjoy some shopping or the nightlife and then catch public transport home without any trouble.
“Over the years, the face of it has changed significantly but with all of the new developments around the area, I believe Park Lane could be heading in the right direction once again.”
Part of the area’s transformation can be attributed to the arrival of Sunderland College’s purpose-built City Campus, which opened its doors in September 2016 bringing in a whole new network of students and young people.
City Campus is home to several of the college’s training centres, including a spa, salon, bakery and the renowned restaurant City Bistro, where the chefs of tomorrow serve up high quality food and drinks.
City Bistro now sits as one of the city’s most popular restaurants and has won rave reviews from food critics and bloggers in the two years since it opened.
Another popular spot is Port of Call, located at number one Park Lane which offers a vibrant bar/restaurant spread over three stories.
Along with exciting cocktails and a huge selection of rums, Port of Call offers a large menu serving everything small Tapas style dishes, flatbreads and salads to hefty steaks, big burgers and loaded fries.
For something smaller, cafes such as vegan and vegetarian haunt Good Apple Café in nearby Derwent Street offer a cool alternative for a spot of lunch, or why not go Italian at Sorrento Restaurant at Stockton Road or Tosca at Derwent Street?
There are also several popular bars in the area. Hidden is one of the city’s favourite secrets, offering an extensive cocktail, beer, cider and spirits list along with its concealed garden area.
Others include Gatsby’s at Derwent Street, Ttonic and The Borough at Vine Place, The Cooper Rose at Albion Place and Legacy at Olive Street.
The area is also home to The Point, the city’s biggest live music venue. This occupies the building which once the ABC cinema and now attracts top bands and artists from around the world.
Next door to The Point is another new arrival, Glitter Ball, a late bar which is home to a disco dancefloor, glitterballs and light shows.
Park Lane Shopping Village takes in several streets around the area which are home to an eclectic selection of small and independent retailers.
Shops like Derwent Street’s Dr Funkenstein continue to stand the test of time, as the city’s leading fancy dress retailer celebrates 21 years in business this year.
It’s a similar story with Wittens & Sons Jewellers at Vine Place, which has become one of the region’s leading family jewellers, specialising in diamonds.
Aphrodite at Vine Place and Olive Street’s Designer Childrenswear are also thriving, and are proving designer clothing stores can survive on the high street as they continue to go from strength to strength.
“What we have in and around the Park Lane area is a strong community of local traders, many of which are family businesses and some which have been here for the many decades,” added Sharon.
“There’s everything from evening entertainment, bars and restaurants to designer clothes, crafts and jewellery shops and it’s a part of the city centre which I would urge everyone to go and have a look around if they haven’t been for a while.
“These independent shops are the backbone of our city centre and make Sunderland what it is. It’s fantastic to see this area starting to grow again, and we need the people who live and work in the city to make sure they support these businesses if they are to continue for decades to come.”