Work officially began today on Bristol’s £26m Wapping Wharf development – the last major regeneration site on the city’s Harbourside and a project which has been in the pipeline for 10 years.
The mainly residential scheme, which will create a new gateway to the city centre from the south, was poised to start in late 2007 but fell victim to the banking crisis that put the skids under the property development market.
Pictured: Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson, left, and Stuart Hatton, managing director of Wapping Wharf (Umberslade), at today’s ground-breaking ceremony
Since then much of the historic 3.5-hectare site off Cumberland Road – the location of Bristol’s original jail – has been used as a surface car park.
But today its developers, builders and civil engineers were joined by Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson braved the rain for a ground-breaking ceremony among the muddy puddles of the vacant site – a clear sign, they said, that the gloom hanging over Bristol’s property development market was now lifting.
Wapping Wharf owners, West Midlands developer Umberslade, bought the site in 2003 off the city council and by 2006 had outline planning permission for its showpiece scheme, which includes a new public square next to the M Shed museum.
Building work was due to start the following year – but was shelved when the property finance market went into meltdown.
Preparatory work on Wapping Wharf – now a joint venture between Umberslade and Manchester-based Muse Developments – started late last year, following a £12m investment from the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA), the largest single award in the UK made under the Government’s Get Britain Building scheme.
Wapping Wharf (Umberslade) director Stuart Hatton today paid tribute to the support of Bristol West MP Stephen Williams and the city council in helping securing the investment and said Bristol was now showing important signs of recovery.
“Wapping Wharf is the last key regeneration site on the Harbourside and the start of construction work is a move in the right direction for the Bristol economy,” he said.
The first phase of construction will include the development of 194 residential apartments, including 26 affordable homes and 865 sq m of retail and leisure space as well as a new pedestrian and cycling pathway linking south Bristol to the Harbourside. Development of the site will create 250 jobs. Piling work on the site will start next week with completion scheduled for March 2015.
Mayor Ferguson said the scheme was a signal that Bristol was now on the up and becoming a prime location for property investment.
He said: “Development at Wapping Wharf is another sure sign that confidence has returned to the Bristol property market, where there is now more activity than in any British city outside London.
“This is one of the most important Harbourside regeneration projects in recent years, including a pedestrian and cycle route linking south Bristol to the centre, creating better access and encouraging people to enjoy the new restaurants, cafes, M Shed and other attractions on offer.”
The scheme will retain and restore several key listed buildings and the old jail gates to enhance the City Docks conservation area and create new public spaces and routes to the waterfront.
The new stepped and ramped pedestrian route called Gaol Ferry Steps will run from Gaol Ferry Bridge, the existing footbridge over the Cut, through the site to Museum Square, a new public landscaped square on the waterfront by M Shed.
When complete, Wapping Wharf will be transformed into a community of up to 625 homes, as well as local shops, cafes, restaurants, offices and a 150-bed boutique hotel.
Umberslade, the team behind Wapping Wharf, has recently formed a joint venture with Muse Developments, a part of Morgan Sindall Group. The joint venture will progress the £42m first phase in Bristol’s Harbourside.
Guy Fowler, director major projects at John Sisk & Son Ltd, who have been appointed to carry out the construction work at Wapping Wharf, commented: “We are delighted to be delivering the first phase of this very exciting scheme which will kick-start the regeneration of an important area of Bristol.”