Wolverhampton regularly features as one of the unhappiest places to live in the country according to several surveys. It has also been named fifth worst city in the world (albeit back in 2009). This is understandable – the city has its problem areas and unemployment has long been well above the national average. But a cursory glance at some of the developments in Wolverhampton shows that the city is, for many residents, neither unhappy or a bad place to live.A positive future for Wolverhampton?
For a start, the city centre – in decline since the recession of 2008 / 2009, is starting to pick up. It will be no fast process, but shops are opening up, new buildings are being constructed, tenants moving in. The Wolverhampton Interchange project has seen the development of a new building – i10, which will house offices and already has a confirmed tenant on the ground floor in the form of a new Hungry Horse restaurant and pub. Across the city centre, the new youth zone is taking shape. Built on land that was formerly occupied by the Fox Hotel on Worcester Street, the new build, named ‘The Way‘ will cater for the city’s 8–19 year olds, and adults with disabilities up to the age of 25.
Despite the disruption caused, the new pedestrianisation of Princess Street and surrounding streets has council bosses expecting increased footfall in the city centre once it is complete. Along with the new improved bus station (completed a couple of years ago), new larger trams are running between Wolverhampton and Birmingham from St George’s Station. Work is soon to start on a new Debenhams store, located in the Mander Centre. This will involve demolition of the south section of the Mander Centre (the area encompassing the former TJ Hughes and the current Tesco), seeing Greggs relocate and Card Market preparing to do so. Debenhams will be complete by 2017 and is expected to create 120 jobs – and Debenhams is only part of a £30 million redevelopment of the Mander Centre. Empty shops in the city centre are being filled, will some enterprising new businesses recently appearing – nowhere more so than Cleveland Street which has seen the likes of the Skalsa Restaurant and Vinyl & Vintage move in. The former Netto store building is to be demolished in the hope that new investment will be drawn in – a blank slate for developers to work with.
Wolverhampton centre is also a real ale hotspot at present, with quality pubs such as Hogshead, The Posada, Lych Gate Tavern and the Dog & Doublet pulling in beer connoisseurs from surrounding areas. The award winning Slaters Brewery of Stafford have also put in a planning application for a new pub in the old Costa Coffee building in Queen Square. Should this be approved, we will no doubt have another top class pub attracting the right sort of drinker to the area. We have some excellent city centre restaurants in Cafe Maxsim, Made in Thai, Rosso E Nero, New Spice, Catellani’s, Rocco and Jivan’s to name but a few. England has always struggled with the continental ‘cafe culture’ – but quality pubs, cafes and restaurants in the Queen Square area along with the area being used for events could see Wolverhampton gain something of a positive reputation for evenings out – though safety in this area will need to be increased to bring people in. Clever investment will bring people and increased footfall will bring further businesses and yet more investment.
Another positive – there are less people out of work. While Wolverhampton still ranks highly for unemployment, the amount of people claiming out of work benefits dropped from its peak of 20.2% in November 2009 to 15.1% in November 2014.
All we have left to change is the negative attitude of some of Wolverhampton’s residents – Wolverhampton could be quite a different place in five years time. Time to stay positive – and happy!