Over the course of around fifteen years, Wolverhampton has changed – not quite unrecognisably, but on a scale that no doubt makes planners of similar sized large towns and small cities look on with a certain amount of envy. It’s not all been highs, with some independent start ups and high street fixtures falling by the way side, but those with enough scope and foresight to survive the increasing digitisation of the consumer world are ploughing on. Today, the much anticipated Wolverhampton Westside project has received the green light as £50 million worth of funding has been secured. Alongside the canalside quarter project at Horseley Fields and the redevelopment of the railway station, a lot is happening all at once. Let’s look at this and more in more detail.
If ever there was a catalyst for the south / western edge of Wolverhampton city centre, then this is it. With funding now secured, development work on the ambitious project can begin. Westside will consist of a multiplex cinema, bowling alley, restaurants and even a mini-golf course; the development will see the creation of a modern entertainment quarter on the land in Market Square between Salop Street and Peel Street.
Work here will no doubt prove to be a catalyst for renovation and the improvement of business corridors between here, the main shopping areas of the revitalised Mander Centre and the Wulfrun Centre and on towards the transport interchange – it should also be of benefit to Chapel Ash and Graiseley, bringing people through these areas to access what should prove to be a destination area within the ring road and providing more than enough reason for people from these areas and further afield to visit the city centre on a regular basis. A glance at the entertainment on offer at Bentley Bridge and the crowds there should hint at the potential Westside has for Wolverhampton centre – providing access and parking is sensibly planned.
Add to this the recent construction and success of the new market at nearby Snow Hill and there are more than enough reasons to head towards the south side of the city centre.
Interchange and Lichfield Street
There has been ongoing construction of one kind or another in this area for the past few years. i10 houses the Sunbeam pub and restaurant, with offices above and a branch of Superdrug on the walk towards the railway station. It’s not all rosy here however, as both Kaspa’s Desserts and Wok&Go have come and gone in the blink of an eye – maybe they were a little too early, as with redevelopment of the railway station, this thoroughfare will be increasingly used. Another reason to see increased footfall in this area is the forthcoming i9 development. Construction is due to start at the Railway Street site, currently home to a car park in front of the Prince Albert pub, and is expected to provide 50,000 square feet of prime office space in the city centre. i9 is due to be completed next year and it is hoped it will draw in a major business for use as a main or regional headquarters.
The railway station looks promising. Work is ongoing on phase 1, with the former police station knocked down, and metalwork currently going up, which will see use in Autumn of this year when complete. Phase 2 will then see the existing station knocked down and replaced by 2020, with the Midland Metro extension coming into use shortly afterwards.
A vision for this area also sees an artists mock up of an office tower at Corn Hill, something that would certainly put Wolverhampton on the map.
Nearby on Lichfield Street, the wonderful Art Deco building that houses the Moon Under Water and former O’Neills pub, is to be renovated and put to use as a Wetherspoons hotel and national museum. JD Wetherspoon are investing in the region of £7 million on the project which will drastically improve the outlook of this busy street, opposite Wolverhampton’s fabled Grand Theatre. Alongside thriving businesses such as the Hungry Bistro, The Bohemian and Zuri Coffee, Lichfield Street will continue to be a place to visit for years to come.
Just a short distance from the railway station at Horseley Fields is the proposed Wolverhampton Canalside Quarter development. This former industrial area alongside the Birmingham Main Line Canal has lain partially derelict for several years. It is hoped that around 600 new homes can be created in this area, within walking distance of the city centre in pleasant waterside surroundings – this will also improve the gateway to the city centre by rail, as trains from Birmingham bridge the canal at Horseley Fields Junction.
To the north east of Horseley Fields lies Heath Town – currently undergoing development work of its own, with 350 new homes expected to be constructed following the recent demolition of the shopping precinct and blocks at Chervil Rise.
New play areas are to be constructed and Wolverhampton Homes are looking at potential future improvements to high rise blocks in the area. As well as this, near Springfield and the old Low Level Railway Station, a new Aldi is nearing completion.
It has been known for some time, should Wolverhampton Wanderers establish themselves as a top flight club, expansion would be necessary at Molineux to increase both match-day capacity and facilities in the area.
Recently, club Managing Director Laurie Dalrymple has made an announcement at a Fans’ Parliament that the first stand at Molineux to be redeveloped would be the Steve Bull stand. Currently the oldest stand within the stadium, it was completed in 1979 as the John Ireland Stand (remember those red seats?) and should everything go to plan, development will start following the 2019 / 20 season. Phase 2 would see redevelopment of the Jack Hayward Stand, known to supporters as the South Bank. Once completed, the capacity at Molineux should be around 45 – 46,000, though a further development of the Billy Wright Stand cannot be ruled out in the future.
Dalrymple has stated that Wolves are working with City of Wolverhampton Council and the University of Wolverhampton to improve the area as a whole – this could include efforts to make the area around Molineux a destination area of its own. With independent redevelopment of the Leaping Wolf pub on Waterloo Road complete, these are the beginnings of exciting times for the Molineux area, both on and off the pitch.
We leave you with possibly our favourite video of a potential future Wolverhampton – this whets the appetite..