Knowledge Quarter plans to transform downtown Newport

PLANS for a so-called Knowledge District in central Newport are well and truly underway.

The university’s Usk Way campus will remain in place, but sweeping changes are planned for the buildings and space around it, including the Newport Centre, which has been an entertainment and leisure destination for over 40 years. .

The vision is to develop a unique area of ​​the city for further and higher education – reviving central Newport as a student hub.

The Knowledge Quarter won’t be just for young learners, however, as the city’s new “state-of-the-art” recreation center will be built on currently undeveloped land between the USW campus and the Castle parking lot. Bingo.

What’s in the plans?

The Knowledge Quarter was announced in early 2018 as part of Newport’s major renovation plans.

After a quiet few years dominated by the pandemic, the past few weeks and months have seen the project make several major advancements, with a series of planning decisions and announcements.

Coleg Gwent will build a new house across from the USW campus on the site of what is now the Newport Center.

With its city base currently in Lliswerry, the move will bring hundreds of young people to central Newport and will undoubtedly be a boon for traders.

Artist’s impression of the proposed Coleg Gwent campus in downtown Newport.

City Council leader Jane Mudd said last week that the proposals would make Newport “an attractive place to live, work and visit”.

Coleg Gwent’s plans are currently in pre-planning consultation, after which they will go through the formal planning permission process.

If built, it will mark the end of an era for one of the city’s most recognizable buildings, the Newport Centre.

In 2018, the leisure center and swimming pool were estimated to need £10million in repairs, and today that work is considered ‘unsustainable’ by the council.

South Wales Argus: Artist's impression of the appearance of the new Newport Leisure Centre.Artist’s impression of the appearance of the new Newport Leisure Centre.

The swimming pool has been out of service for several months and there are no plans to reopen it. While other leisure activities continue at the Newport Centre, its main use for the past two years has been as a Covid vaccination centre.

It will be demolished to make way for the Coleg Gwent campus, and the town’s new leisure center will be built a few hundred meters away.

South Wales Argus: An aerial view of Newport, including the USW campus and the Newport Centre.  Photo: Chris TinsleyAn aerial view of Newport, including the USW campus and the Newport Center. Photo: Chris Tinsley

The proposed three-storey development will include a billiard room, changing rooms, restrooms, foyer, cafe, gym, studios and a green roof garden.

There was some disappointment, however, that the new venue did not host live music – unlike the Newport Center which has hosted stars such as David Bowie and Sir Elton John.

Despite this, the planning documents claim that the new leisure center and swimming pool “will provide a varied range of sports and activities, catering to all levels of ability and age, and encouraging engagement and participation. from the community”.

A student city in the future?

Prior to the development works, the University of South Wales reaffirmed its commitment to the city.

The closure of the Caerleon Campus in 2016 brought major changes to Newport, not only in the loss of student population – over 9,000 a decade ago – but also in the wider economic benefits of being a student town.

While the university continues to deliver some courses at its Usk Way campus, the reduction of its presence in Newport will have been keenly felt by the city, especially in the night economy.

South Wales Argus: The USW campus at Usk Way, Newport.The USW campus at Usk Way, Newport.

Addressing the Argus earlier this month, Professor Dylan Jones-Evans, deputy professional vice-chancellor for business at USW, said a new business initiative was proof the university was committed to Newport.

The Startup Stiwdio program provides space and support for USW graduates to start their own business, and the professor said it will “act as a catalyst and a conduit to increase entrepreneurial activity” in the city.

She also said the USW has “a huge economic impact” and that “for every £1 we receive in revenue, £5.30 is generated for the whole economy”.

With the impending development of the Knowledge Quarter, it is hoped that the arrival of more students and facilities in the city center will open a positive new chapter for Newport.

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