More than 500 formal responses were given to a Swansea Council survey on plans to create a community hub in an existing city centre building.
The responses were overwhelmingly supportive of the proposals and illustrated that key elements to consider include making the venue as accessible as possible, having it in the right location and having internet access.
The council aims to create a multi-purpose venue to boost community cohesion, opportunities for self-development and growth, digital inclusion, well-being and unity.
It would house a number of council services with a direct public-facing function, plus some other key non-council services. It could house a library, local studies centre and archive, family history centre, life-long learning centre, community and activity space, and an employability hub.
It could offer community events, opportunities for community engagement and a focal point for people to meet.
What! Stores (the former BHS), on Oxford Street, has been identified as a potential location as store owners recently told the council that they planned to vacate that site and focus their retail efforts at other Swansea locations.
Council leader Rob Stewart said: “We want to create a new, more accessible modern library and a one-stop shop for services delivered by the council and others. We want this hub to give residents better access to services than ever before.
“By repurposing the substantial former BHS building, we avoid the cost of building a new structure, reduce overheads and help revitalise the city centre that’s already undergoing a £1bn regeneration. The process will bring this large building back into full use, creating economic activity and footfall for the new city centre.
“Our new community hub will be more accessible than the Civic Centre as it’s based in the heart of the city. It will be conveniently located next to a new-look Castle Square Gardens and will be digitally enabled with the best networks available anywhere in the UK. We think the former BHS is ideal as a community hub as it’s within minutes walking distance of city centre shops, services, car parking and public transport stops.
“It will provide access to all and provide a range of services in a welcoming environment where people can meet and participate in social activities, learning and support groups.
“It will provide agile accommodation for third sector, public and private sector organisations that endorse the ethos of a community hub. Flexible, collaborative office space will encourage a coordinated approach in supporting people to improve the quality of their lives.”
The council plans to acquire the leasehold interest in the former BHS building and to refurbish the premises with the aim of opening as a community hub in 2023.
The council is analysing all survey responses and will use them to inform plans for the building. The proposals are at an early stage and no decisions have yet been made.