Search starts for contractor to transform historic Palace Theatre building

How the inside of Swansea’s Palace Theatre building could look in future.

Swansea Council has started the search for an experienced contractor to transform the city centre’s historic Palace Theatre building.

It is expected that the business selected will have a track record of working with heritage buildings.

The flatiron-shaped 133-year-old Palace is a grade two listed building that once staged performances with the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

The council acquired the six-storey High Street building from private owners around a year ago. Although sound on the outside, it is dilapidated inside.

It is to be transformed sensitively into a home to tech, start-up and creative businesses. Planning permission has been granted and listed building consent is being considered.

Work could start this summer and the building could reopen next year. The council is seeking a lead tenant to run the building.

Council leader Rob Stewart said: “The Palace is one of Swansea’s most iconic buildings, and is now an important part of the city centre’s £1bn transformation.

“It has strong connections with Swansea’s proud cultural past as well as being part of its future.

“I’m very pleased we were able to rescue the building and have continued to work through the pandemic to get a lot of the preparation work completed. We can now begin the restoration of this historic building for future generations.”

Robert Francis-Davies, the council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: “I’m confident that high-quality construction firms will want to be part of this prestigious project that will help regenerate the immediate area and the rest of the city centre.

“There’s a long way to go to bring this landmark building to life once more but progress so far has been incredible.”

Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government Hannah Blythyn said: “The regeneration of the historic Palace Theatre building is a fantastic example of how funding from our Transforming Towns programme can be used to breathe new life into an iconic building.

“This project will create a community asset that will benefit the local community and provide a home for new and existing businesses. I look forward to seeing how the work progresses.”

The Palace was last used 15 years ago as a nightclub. Other uses had included bingo hall and cinema.

The new vision for the building includes workspaces for more than 130 people.

The building’s structure will be maintained with the retention and restoration of original historic features and the reinstatement of other historic features.

Works to the exterior will include repairs to and restoration of the facade stonework, brickwork and roof. Canopies will be reinstated of both historical main entrances. There will be the repair or like-for-like replacement of timber window frames and doors. There will be new pavement lighting, pavement improvements and an accessible parking bay on Bethesda Street.

The auditorium balustrading will be restored and reinstated and have the ability to accommodate small scale events.

The existing floors will be repaired and will look down towards a stage – as the original theatre audiences did.

The plans have been assisted by the public through the Friends of Place Theatre Group and a dedicated Facebook page and by others through engagement with Welsh historic monuments body Cadw, council officers, the Theatres Trust and the Victorian Society.

On behalf of Swansea Council, GWP Architecture is leading the Palace project.

Funding is being sought from the European Regional Development Fund and the Welsh Government, via the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns programme for the project.

The main contractor will be selected in a competitive tender process. Full details will be published soon on procurement portal Sell2Wales.