The regeneration of a key area of the city centre has taken a major step forward.
Developers Complex Development Projects and Unite Group plc have submitted a planning application for the first phase of the project on land in Hales Street adjoining the River Sherbourne.
The £25m development is planned to kick start the regeneration of Hales Street and The Burges conservation area.
Plans include opening up the river in Palmer Lane as well as the creation of restaurants and cafés which will front on to a new square, turning the river into an asset for locals and visitors.
The site is Council-owned and forms the last remaining part of the Phoenix Initiative, Coventry’s Millennium project that saw the development of Millennium Place, Priory Place and the Transport Museum as well as the uncovering of the Priory Ruins.
Several previous attempts to secure a landmark development to complete the Millennium Place frontage have faltered, with the site remaining empty for more than a decade.
The proposals have been worked up by Complex Development Projects (CDP) with student housing provider Unite Group plc and follow on from their £20m project currently under construction at the gateway to Far Gosford Street.
The regeneration of the wider Burges area is the subject of an application to Heritage Lottery Fund for £2m which is due to be decided at the end of this month.
This Townscape Heritage Initiative grant scheme will be similar to the Far Gosford regeneration initiative and will be managed by the Council and Historic Coventry Trust.
Ian Harrabin Managing Director of CDP and Chairman of Historic Coventry, said: “These exciting proposals provide a landmark building of innovative design to finally finish off the Phoenix Initiative but, more importantly, kick start the regeneration of The Burges quarter, providing the financial driver for the opening up of the river and the restoration of one of the city’s most historic areas.
“The project takes advantage of the growth in student numbers resulting from Coventry University’s continued expansion as a centre of excellence. This boom in student housing demand has enabled us to secure development of one of the city’s more intractable key sites, driving the regeneration of the surrounding conservation area.
“Far Gosford Street has been a success and now that its regeneration is almost complete, there is an opportunity to retain the staff and their expertise and to roll this into the delivery of another major initiative.
“The Burges is ideal for this approach as, like Far Gosford, it has been in decline for decades and is one of the last untouched parts of the pre-war city. It is an historical gem and an asset that we can’t afford to overlook, especially now with the bid for City of Culture."
Cllr Kevin Maton, Cabinet Member for Business, Enterprise and Employment, said: "I am delighted that the plan for this part of the city centre is taking shape. The site has been vacant for many years now but this proposal will totally transform this area and will complement the work at the Transport Museum and Grammar School.
“Opening up the river will create a new public space with waterside cafés and I’m sure it will be a major draw for local people and visitors. The development of waterside areas has been a big success in other cities and although the Sherbourne is small, it is the only river in the centre we’ve got.
“The student accommodation will bring an extra buzz to the area – day and night - and building purpose-built accommodation like this in our city centre means more family homes will be freed up in local communities. Coventry University has a growing reputation and we want young people to learn here and then stay here to help us become a top ten city once again.
"This is a great example of the Council working with partners to get the most benefit we can for the city and provides a good blueprint for future city centre regeneration.”