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Recent and upcoming developments in Sunderland

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In 2023, Sunderland City Council confirmed that over £400 million would be invested in the city over the next four years. Some major developments have already been implemented in Sunderland recently, with many more underway.

These developments are paving the way for Sunderland to make substantial improvements to its city centre and seafront, enhance its offering of events to attract more visitors, and increase job prospects. Not only that, but we're also investing over £250 million here at the University in the next 10 years to transform our facilities.

We’ve highlighted some of the top developments you can look forward to if you choose to join us as a student at the University of Sunderland.

A drone view of the River Wear and the riverside developments in Sunderland

1. Riverside Sunderland

One of the biggest regeneration projects currently taking place is the development of a new carbon-neutral, urban quarter, which will be known as Riverside Sunderland. The area will encompass the Riverside with Keel Square, High Street West and the old Vaux Brewery site which will all see significant improvements over the coming years. Several new buildings are already completed or in progress, including office spaces, a new City Hall, the Fire Station, residential buildings, a Holiday Inn, and a multi-storey car park. The British Esports Association also opened the National Esports Performance Campus venue in 2022 to support one of the fastest growing industries in the world.

Due to open in 2024, there will be another addition to Keel Square with the arrival of The Culture House. Benefitting from a £25 million investment and designed by award-winning architects, this will be a contemporary, multi-purpose cultural venue to attract visitors of all ages. The Culture House will combine a state-of-the-art library with spaces to showcase exhibitions, media, arts and crafts, and more, and will also be home to a variety of social spaces, including a roof garden.

Another exciting change which will be part of Riverside is the transformation of the Grade II listed stables, Sheepfolds, into a £2 million indoor and outdoor entertainment site. Completion of the venue is expected in 2024 and will offer several eating and drinking options, as well as play host to pop-up events and markets throughout the year. A brand new pedestrian and cyclist bridge is also in the works, spanning the River Wear and making the important connection between Sheepfolds and the soon to be restored Vaux Brewery site.

If that wasn’t enough, there are further proposals to enhance the walking routes and woodland that run adjacent to the Riverside, which is in line with the plans to improve biodiversity in Sunderland. This will mean the creation of a new public green space called Riverside Park, providing some exciting facilities and a better natural habitat for our wildlife.

Students laughing and enjoying drinks at Stack Seaburn

2. Seaburn Promenade

If you make your way out of the city centre and head towards the coast, you’ll find that further rejuvenation of Seaburn Promenade is taking shape, which has helped create more than 200 jobs.

Having proved itself to be one of Sunderland’s most popular social settings with Phase One being completed back in 2020, Phase Two of Stack Seaburn will see the venue double in size. The development plan includes some exciting additional features like bowling, mini golf, and karaoke booths, and the venue is hoping to secure planning permission to become a permanent fixture at Seaburn.

It's not just Stack undergoing a makeover – the walkway which runs along the seafront nearby has been transformed with updated paving, fresh planters, and colourful street furniture, providing a brand new backdrop to our stunning beach. There are other coastal leisure venues set to be part of the investment too, building on the expansion of Sunderland’s thriving food and drink scene. We can look forward to new restaurants and beachfront bars including a craft ale bar, and the conversion of the old Victorian tram shelter into a delicatessen has already been taken over by East Boldon’s Blacks Corner.

3. The Fire Station auditorium

Following an £11 million investment project and part of the beautifully restored Old Fire Station, a brand new, multifunctional entertainment venue was opened in December 2021. Just steps away from the Sunderland Empire, The Fire Station auditorium can house an audience of up to 490 seated or 775 standing and showcases music, theatre, comedy and dance amongst its performances, from local, national, and international artists. Whilst you’re visiting, make sure to check out The Fire Station’s bar and restaurant – The Engine Room – the perfect spot for a pre-show refreshment or bite to eat.

The exterior of The Fire Station by night, looking down the street towards the Sunderland Empire

Photo credit: David Allen

4. Sunderland Station

A considerable renovation of Sunderland’s existing train station is already underway, with an estimated £26 million being spent on it. A new southern entrance to the station opened at the end of 2023, which boasts an impressive wrap around, glass-fronted design and is home to new ticket office, reception, public toilets, and food and retail spaces.

Following on from the updates to the south side, as part of a wider investment programme, a new northern entrance is due to be completed over the next few years. There are also plans to increase capacity with four tracks and platforms to separate Nexus Metro from the mainline train services, in the hopes of creating business and further investment opportunities to support the city.

5. A 5G city and university

In 2022, a new partnership was announced between the University, Sunderland City Council and BAI Communications to implement advanced wireless technology across our campuses. A 5G test lab will be developed on the Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter’s, which means that we’re set to become one of the UK’s first 5G-enabled universities, putting us at the forefront of digital innovation. Adopting 5G will facilitate wider coverage and data speeds of up to 10 to 20 times faster.

As part of a Smart City roll out, Sunderland is taking the lead to implement 5G ready WiFi within the city centre too, which is already underway and will initially be deployed within the area of Keel Square and High Street West, with a view to develop further. With £3.8 million worth of funding behind it, the implementation of 5G will undoubtedly benefit us as a university but also many local businesses and individuals who live and work in the city.

With so much to look forward to, there’s never been a better time to consider coming to study with us. Explore our range of fantastic courses and find out more about what it’s like to live in Sunderland.

Published: 21 February 2024