COUNCIL chiefs in Swansea hope the stalled project at The Kingsway could be completed by the end of November, as originally planned.
Talks are continuing with a major contractor to step in following the demise of engineering firm Dawnus.
“Our initial discussions are looking at the same dates – that is part of the negotiation of the contract,” Swansea’s regeneration strategic manager Huw Mowbray told a panel of councillors.
Asked if that meant finishing the £12m overhaul by the end of November, he replied: “That is currently the target date.”
The project will create a two-lane, two-way route along The Kingsway, Orchard Street, Mansel Street, De La Beche Street, Grove Place and Alexandra Road.
Some council workers are currently on site on the busy city centre road ahead of the expected takeover by the new contractor.
Councillors also heard that at least three companies were interested in occupying a new purpose-built office block at the Oceana site on The Kingsway.
Mr Mowbray said initial designs for the building – dubbed the digital village – were completed and a planning application is set to be submitted this year.
The building would be aimed at tech companies, which Mr Mowbray described as a “key sector for Swansea”.
He said Swansea lacked modern offices, meaning that expanding tech companies had little option but to relocate.
An exception is High Street’s Tech Hub, which Mr Mowbray admitted had some empty space, when asked.
Some office space has been or is being turned into student accommodation in Swansea, but Mr Mowbray said the principle issue was commercial viability.
Companies which built offices, he said, needed rental income of about £20 per square foot to make it worthwhile. But Mr Mowbray said rents in Swansea were more like £14 or £15 per square foot.
Mr Mowbray said this meant public sector grants were needed to subsidise the shortfall, which could add bureaucracy to the process. He said the situation was similar across Wales.
Some of the funding for the digital village will come via the city deal for the Swansea Bay city region, once the business case has finally been signed off.
Mr Mowbray said: “The city deal tries to break the cycle. Over a period of time rents will rise on The Kingsway.”
Paul Relf, Swansea’s economic development manager, said the city deal investment was needed “to change the whole dynamic”.
He anticipated grants being replaced by loans further down the line.
“I think there is positive light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
Photo: Richard Youle