Swansea Council is set to save one of the city centre’s architectural treasures.
The historic and much-loved Palace Theatre building, which has been in private ownership for some time, has been left unused for more than a decade and has fallen into dilapidation.
This week (Thu, Sept 19) the council’s cabinet approved a plan to breathe new life into the building while protecting its famous facade for generations to come.
Council leader Rob Stewart said: “After many months of behind the scenes work and negotiations our plan is to purchase the building and regenerate it into much-needed high-quality office space, retail space and also deliver a new space for community use.
“Our proposals will not only save this architecturally-significant landmark for our city but also add to the revitalisation of the upper High Street area. The benefits will be felt by the city centre and the local community for years to come.”
The Palace Theatre was built 131 years ago and had a chequered career as a theatre, a cinema and finally a night club which closed in 2007. Among those to have topped the bill there were Charlie Chaplin, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Morecambe and Wise and Ken Dodd.
Swansea Council is working with Welsh Government to identify funding to support the transformation of the Grade 2 listed structure. The restoration programme could start this year and could be finished in three years.
Cllr Stewart said: “There’s growing demand for top class office space for tech businesses, creative industries and SMEs in the city centre – and the Palace would be a highly desirable location.
“Its transformation would also help regenerate the High Street area which is already benefiting from more than £100m of investment via a number of key privately funded projects to get more people living and working there.
“The council’s £130m Swansea Central Phase One is also moving ahead at pace and we’re on track to deliver the new digital arena, shops, car parks and hotel in early 2021. Meanwhile, the £12m Kingsway transformation is nearing completion and plans are progressing for our digital village and other major schemes.”
A private sector-led scheme to regenerate the Palace Theatre began four years ago but grant support for redevelopment has not materialised.
Emergency repair work was carried out but the building is now in an advanced state of dereliction, with protective fencing around its base.
Discussions this summer between the owners, council and Welsh Government determined that the only option was for the council to acquire the Palace and work with Welsh Government to identify funding to support the redevelopment of the building. Cabinet approved such a proposal today.
If successful, the council would then work with heritage specialists to redevelop it as office accommodation, although there may also be scope to include conference and performance facilities. The council would then manage the building and generate revenue to offset costs.