Video: Major regeneration project is proud moment for city architect
By Andrew Merrell | 20th March 2019
A topping out ceremony has marked the progress of a landmark multi-million pound city centre development designed by a Gloucestershire firm of architects.
The investment into 123 to 129 Commercial Street, Newport, now called Liberty Gardens, has been called "vital" to keeping the Welsh city's regeneration momentum rolling.
Newport City Council worked with the Welsh Government to secure a slice of its £100-million-plus Vibrant and Viable Places nationwide scheme to make the development possible.
It was then up to Willis Construction, as main contractor for housing association Pobl, to deliver the scheme - ground floor retail units with 38 apartments above for the over 55s.
For the architects, Roberts Limbrick, the topping-out ceremony (a builders' rite held when the last beam on a building goes into place) was an especially proud moment.
"This scheme is special for us because it is in our home town," said Aaron Terry, a director at the practice.
Although headquartered in Gloucester the business also has a thriving practice in Newport and the two teams share their expertise and considerable depth of expertise.
"We started here in Newport with the development at the Old Town Dock for 300 homes - which we did with Sennybridge and Seren Group."
Roberts Limbrick won a competition to take on the Docks project run by the urban regeneration company Newport Unlimited.
Since then the firm has gone on to be involved in some of Wales' biggest projects and grown fast.
"That competition was five years ago. We opened the office four and a half years ago in part of the old Magistrates Court at Gold Tops in Newport," said Mr Terry.
"Within six months we had to negotiate a lease for the other half of the floor as we had run out of space. We are now 20 staff and are still growing."
Matthew Tribbeck, from Newport City Council, a regeneration manager for Welsh Government's Vibrant and Viable Places scheme, said the significance of the Roberts Limbrick-designed Liberty Gardens for Newport "cannot be underestimated".
On target for completion at the end of this year, Mr Tribbeck called it "key to restoring vibrancy and vitality to the city centre".
It is expected to have created 50 jobs in construction in the city during the build.
"The project represents an exemplar scheme in terms of revitalising the spiral of decline intrinsic to low-value and poorly maintained property," he said.
Newport, he said, was a city on the up "benefitting from a generational opportunity" to maximise the groundswell of positivity and interest in the city.
Neil Barber, director of development at Pobl: "This fantastic development is testament to great partnership working, with our team at Pobl working closely with Newport Council to ensure the Welsh Government's Vibrant and Viable Places fund makes a real difference in Newport.
"Roberts Limbrick have played a key role in achieving our vision of a great place to live for older people right in the heart of Newport, designing beautiful apartments in a modern, spacious building with views across the city and some innovative and attractive communal areas and gardens."
Other key projects designed by the invisible hand of Roberts Limbrick include the Celtic Business Park near Newport - a 100-acre site for a new factory at Llanwern.
That factory is expected to create 300 jobs in the tram and train building industry for Spanish firm Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF).
The architects were involved in the Wales National 50m Pool in Swansea and the ongoing and vast redevelopment that is the former BP Llandarcy Oil Refinery site.
The 1,000 acres-plus former BP oil refinery is being transformed into 4,000 new homes, schools, parks, employment space and a new village centre.
Roberts Limbrick was also involved in the masterplan for the former Mabey Bridge works near Chepstow and the redevelopment of the Hendrefoilian Student Village, Swansea - consisting of around 300 new homes.
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