Wearmouth Bridge, Sunderland
Hilton, Premier Inn and The Cairn Group have all invested in Sunderland over the past few years. Bryce Wilcock explains why.
Sunderland City Centre has benefited from a spate of new hotel openings over the past few years and there are more developments in the pipeline.
After a series of construction delays, Premier Inn officially opened the doors of its newest £7.5m city centre hotel at the bottom of Chester Road back in 2015, creating 45 jobs.
Soon after its opening, the Hilton Garden Inn announced that it was set to open its first hotel in the North East right next to the Stadium of Light.
The launch of the 141-bedroom in March last year was one of the city’s most prestige openings in recent years and generated a real buzz around the city.
And it doesn’t stop there. Leading North East hospitality operator, Cairn Group, has submitted a planning application for a 4-star hotel as part of the regeneration of Sunderland city centre’s Keel Square.
The group, which owns and operates a portfolio of 31 hotels and over 30 bars and restaurants across the UK, is liaising with the city council to lead plans which propose bringing a landmark hotel, believed to be Holiday Inn, to the site.
A planning application has been submitted to the council for the build of the 120-room hotel, resulting in a large investment into the area and creating around 70 jobs right in the heart of the city.
So, you may be wondering, like many local residents, why the sudden surge of inward investment into the city?
Well, a massive £1.3bn is set to be pumped into the city over the next four years to build new developments and infrastructure projects which will transform Sunderland and create a strong platform for long-term growth.
The city’s 3, 6, 9 Vision document, which was published last week, sets out details of how the ‘Transforming our city’ strategy and action programme is set to dramatically change the cityscape, create thousands of new jobs, and boost the city’s cultural impact over the next three, six and nine years.
Sunderland’s Economic Leadership Board, which includes Sunderland City Council, Siglion, the University of Sunderland, Gentoo, City Hospitals, the Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture Trust, the Sunderland Business Improvement District and key city-based businesses are working closely together to ensure the plans come to fruition within the timescale.
The city is already celebrating success with major projects now underway such as the Vaux development in the city centre, the New Wear Crossing, and the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), all of which will create thousands of news jobs and open major new opportunities for people who live and work in the city.
And a further 40 projects are identified in the 3,6,9 document covering the five key themes of economy, connectivity, education, culture and housing.
The International Advanced Manufacturing Park, following planning permission, will begin to be developed, in partnership with South Tyneside Council, in 2019.
The site, adjacent to the Nissan plant, is expected to create over 5,200 jobs and bring in more than £300m of private sector investment during the next decade by attracting a wide range of international companies to invest in the area.
Much to the city’s relief, construction at the former Vaux site also began in December and the first phase is scheduled for completion this summer.
The three phase Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor is now also well underway. St Mary’s Boulevard has created an attractive, accessible tree-lined route into the city, and the New Wear Crossing structure is already dominating the river.
The third phase, the £57m dual carriageway linking the city centre and the Port of Sunderland will begin next year and be complete within two years, providing a huge trade boost for the city.
Work has also started on Sunderland’s arts and entertainment complex which will form the centrepiece of a new cultural quarter.
The Old Fire Station off High Street West is being developed into a £3m restaurant, cafe, heritage centre and dance and drama studio due to open next autumn.
Arts Council England has awarded £2m over the next four years to Sunderland Culture. The city has also been awarded £175,000 to create a new exhibition space for the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art at the National Glass Centre.
In the last year, the new campus at Sunderland College opened its doors and the University has announced plans to continue investing in the city.
Businesses are investing in the city across key sectors. In the last five years Sunderland’s automotive companies created 3,742 new jobs, invested £917m and built two million sq ft of new floorspace on 88 acres of land.
It’s not just the automotive sector driving the city forward either. The recently published Tech Nation report indicates that the turnover of the city’s digital tech businesses grew by 101% between 2011 and 2015, and supports over 5,700 jobs. The Guardian described the city as ‘one of the fastest-growing software hubs outside London’.
The sustainability of the big names already based in Sunderland – such as Rolls-Royce, Vantec Europe Ltd, Lear Corporation and Liebherr – is matched by a host of smaller, innovative, technology-led local companies setting up and growing strongly across its many business locations.
Nissan, Lear, Vantec, ZF TRW and Rolls Royce have all recently expanded their operations, giving a clear vote of confidence in the city as a long-term base for thriving businesses.
If one thing is for certain, the skyline of Sunderland is changing – and it’s not just down to the erection of the £117m New Wear Crossing.
Hotels, major corporates and the local people are all investing in Sunderland and the future certainly looks bright for the city.