Business hub plan for Cardiff's Coal Exchange

Coal Exchange
Image caption An artist's impression of the Coal Exchange as a business hub

The Coal Exchange building in Cardiff Bay could be transformed into a business hub under city council plans.

The 127-year-old venue, once the headquarters of the coal industry in south Wales, was closed without notice in June for safety reasons.

If plans went ahead, the exchange hall would be restored and a 1,300-seat banqueting hall, public square, office space and innovation centre developed.

There are fears the building could fall derelict within two years if left.

In a document presented to the council, the economy cabinet member Russell Goodway set out the proposal which would see the council acquire the freehold of the building, which is currently owned by Macob Exchange.

The document, Time for the Coal Exchange, stated: "The Coal Exchange is at risk and, unless we act immediately, dereliction seems inevitable.

"Any future use of the building depends on finding a sustainable use and preserving and promoting its unique historical assets."

It continued: "Without proper stabilisation, the chance to rescue the Coal Exchange may disappear within two years.

"It was said that the first-ever £1 million cheque was written in the Coal Exchange around 1904, approximately £60m today. A hundred years later, an equivalent investment will be needed to rejuvenate this important building."

The plan includes:

  • An international standard banqueting hall capable of hosting 1,300 people or being broken down into smaller areas, built above the existing building with views across the city
  • A Cardiff Business Innovation Centre to support start-up companies, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and educational institutions such as local universities
  • Office space
  • A networking hub in the Exchange Hall for businesses to meet and swap ideas. It will also be open to the public for the first time.
  • A new glass atrium inside the north side of the building
  • Underground car parking
  • New public space created in front of the building.

Nerys Lloyd-Pierce, chair of Cardiff Civic Society, said: "Anything that can be done to rescue the building, as long as they stick to the integrity of the building, is welcome.

"At the moment it's just going downhill so something needs to be done as a matter of urgency to save it.

"It's one of the most important buildings in Cardiff. It's part of the fabric.

"Cardiff was built on coal so it's got a very significant part to play in our history."

The Coal Exchange started life in 1883 and was the daily meeting place for coal and ship owners and their agents to trade.

It was the world hub for the coal trade at the turn of the 20th Century, but its fortunes fell as coal exporting dropped off and the Exchange closed in 1958.

Since 2001 the Grade II listed building has operated as an entertainment venue, but it closed in 2007 for a revamp which did not go ahead.

It reopened in 2009 and has been used for live music and other events.

The venue was closed again in June for safety reasons while emergency repairs were carried out after the council said it had to step in to ensure the building was made safe.

Image caption The Coal Exchange saw the first £1m cheque signed in 1904 when Cardiff was the world's biggest coal-exporting port

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