The inSwindon BID Company (which represents the town centre businesses) has teamed up with Swindon Borough Council to invest in an exciting project to tidy up Bridge Street. Four empty units have now been given a new lease of life with the goal of making the experience of shopping in the town centre a more pleasant one, whilst encouraging businesses to look at the area for future investment.
A local Wiltshire business named Smart City Dressing was commissioned to work on the empty shops, pubs and restaurants to change their appearance for the better. The project has been funded equally from a grant provided by the anti-social behaviour team at Swindon Borough Council and the Mary Portas high street fund.
The window dressing has helped to give the vision of a new eclectic range of businesses on the street including ‘The Broadwalk’; a once popular bar which has now been given a new look and appears to be an appealing eatery getting ready to open its doors. Another of the businesses ‘Vinyl Tap’ was once a Chinese restaurant and now has the fresh new look of a vinyl record store come coffee shop. This unit is across from the ‘Virtual Deli’ which was, until a few years ago, a furniture shop and now takes the form of an attractive looking town centre delicatessen.
The former Ellington’s unit (known to many as ‘The Bedroom’) on the corner of Bridge Street and Fleet Street, has also been completely transformed and is now building on Swindon’s historic railway heritage – reflecting the importance of the ‘Swindon 175’ celebrations next year. The previously popular night spot is now set out as an art gallery boasting photography from Swindon’s vast history with the railway; with all imagery provided by the Steam Museum.
Di Powell, inSwindon BID manager said: “We are really pleased to have been working so closely with the local authority to make this impressive change to an area which we feel has a fantastic future ahead of it. We aim to continue with tidying up empty units in the town centre and will be working hard with are partners to encourage new business into those units, bringing back a once thriving area to be enjoyed by all visitors to the town”
Cllr Garry Perkins, Swindon Borough Council cabinet member for Economy, Regeneration and Skills, said: “This idea tackles two related problems at once, firstly by helping to tidy up a retail area which has declined, and secondly by showing businesses what it could look like again. This has attracted new investment in the towns and cities where it has been tried and brought vacant units back into profitable use. It’s a very simple idea and it works.”
The project has also received support from businesses next to the units including Wilkinson manager James Gray: “It’s a fantastic improvement to the street which has not only helped to brighten the place up but also created a better trading environment for the businesses in the town”. Andrew Charlton, manager of Cash Generator said: “The change to the units have helped to considerably increase footfall over the last week. Customers love the look and the street looks more enticing to visit”.
Swindon Town Centre’s most recent unit occupancy vacancies show an improvement of 0.7% against the previous quarter. Current level of vacant units is 9.46% compared to the national average of 10.2%.
Pictured above: The new Virtual Deli building, previously the vacant Suite Superstore shop (pictured below before renovations)