Sunderland’s Keel Square has won national recognition – by being named as runner-up for a prestigious award.

The square clinched second place in the pedestrian environment category of the Street Design Awards 2019. The awards highlight best practice and innovation in urban design across Britain.

Keel Square has a number of unusual features, most of which celebrate Sunderland’s shipbuilding heritage.

In addition to the nautical theme of the square’s lighting columns and bins, Keel Square contains the gigantic glass and bronze sculpture ‘Propellers of the City’, which bears images of the faces of more than 300 shipyard workers.

The square also plays host to the Keel Line, which – at 292 metres – represents the length of the Naess Crusader, the longest ship ever constructed on the Wear.

After crossing the square, the Keel Line crosses St Mary’s Boulevard and continues on to the site of the former Vaux Brewery, which is seen as a future cornerstone of Sunderland’s culture and economy.

The Keel Line lists the names of the 8,102 ships that have been built in Sunderland since 1786. The names were etched by the artist Bryan Talbot – of Alice in Sunderland fame – who added illustrations of important people, structures and events from Sunderland’s history.

Keel Square – which also boasts dancing fountains – was completed in April 2018.

Sunderland City Council’s cabinet member for housing and regeneration, Cllr Rebecca Atkinson, said, “We’re delighted to see Keel Square being recognised nationally as a catalyst for the regeneration of the city centre.”

“We set out to create a world-class public square which would serve as a space for events and regeneration, complement the Grade II* listed Magistrates Court, and provide a smooth transition between the former Vaux Brewery site and the rest of the city centre, and I think we have achieved that.”

“Since its opening, Keel Square has become the home to the Christmas Switch On and ice rink, the annual 10k run and half-marathon, and, more recently, the first ever Sunderland Food and Drink Festival.”

“We’ve already seen some fantastic developments around the Minster Quarter and just last week we had a planning application submitted for a £16m Holiday Inn hotel overlooking Keel Square.”

“And following the completion of the first phase of the redevelopment of the former Vaux Brewery site there’s so much more to look forward to with £0.5 billion of investment planned for the city centre between now and 2030.”

“This will see more and better jobs in the city centre, the new City Hall development, new spaces to live and relax, a new railway station and better connectivity, a new footbridge across the river connecting the stadium with the city centre, new leisure developments and a stronger daytime and night economy.”

“Keel Square will continue to be an important part of this plan as our city centre continues to transform itself into a vibrant, dynamic place we can all be proud of.”

(Featured image courtesy of John Lord from Flickr Creative Commons)

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