Plans for a new tallest building in Wales revealed in the centre of Cardiff

A prime development site in the centre of Cardiff has been acquired for what will be the tallest building in Wales. The last parcel of land (plot 5) at the mixed-use Central Square scheme has been bought by Bluecastle Capital from property development company Rightacres Property in a multi-million-pound deal.

Bluecastle Capital will now take forward plans - for which there is already planning consent - for a 35-storey build to rent (BTR) apartment scheme. When completed, the 113m-high block will provide 364 apartments. The development will also have a commercial pavilion and additional residential amenity space.

At the moment, the tallest habitable building in Wales is the 107m-high Meridian Quay block in Swansea. Cardiff's tallest habitable block is the student accommodation tower known as the Bridge Street exchange, which tops out at 85m. However, all of these buildings are smaller than the spire at BT's stadium house which is 120m-high but is not usually included in tallest-building lists.

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There are plans for several other buildings that would join the list of the tallest buildings in Wales.

There were plans before the 2008 financial crash for a tower at the Bayscape development in Cardiff Bay but the planned 127m-high hotel and apartment block has never been built. And in 22016, plans were put forward for a 42-storey block on Custom House Street in Cardiff which would have been taller again at 132m.

Other tall blocks in the planning or construction process include the tower at Central Quay in Cardiff which is expected to be 90.5m high and the 96m-high block proposed by the Rapport family at Guildford Crescent in Cardiff where the historic buildings were controversially demolished.

Ed Williams, chief executive of Bluecastle Capital, said: “This acquisition represents an important investment for Bluecastle and is our first project located in the Cardiff Capital Region. The site is extremely well located in the heart of Cardiff city centre, with excellent transport links and access to local employment centres. As a location, Cardiff offers extremely attractive benefits, including a thriving local economy and is projected to be one of the UK’s fastest growing cities over the next two decades.”

Bluecastle said it was too early, having just started the process of working up detailed plans, to give an indication on when work could start and be completed.

Following a career in equity markets with Merrill Lynch, Mr Williams, who was born and raised in Cardiff, founded Bluecastle Capital in 2015. The London-based company has structured, developed and asset managed more than £3bn worth of real estate projects.

Having identified the BTR market with significant growth potential, as well as its Cardiff scheme it has a total of 1,000 apartments in its development pipeline. Its other schemes under development are in Stevenage and Sheffield. The UK BTR sector is one of the fastest-growing sectors in UK real estate attracting around £4bn of investment in 2023. Bluecastle believes it is well placed to become one of the UK’s leading developer and operator of BTR assets.

The exact value of Bluecastle’s land deal with Rightacres has not been disclosed, but is understood to be around £15m. The land plot was marketed on behalf of Rigthacres by property advisory firm Knight Frank through its Cardiff office. On the potential for further BTR projects in the city, Mr Williams said: “We are committed to Cardiff as a location and see huge potential for the BTR sector within the city.”

Bluecastle will operate the Central Square BTR scheme once completed.

Plot 5, a relatively small area of land next to the HMRC headquarters building, is the last remaining development site at Central Square, where over the last decade Rightacres has delivered 1.25 million sq ft of mixed-use space - of which around 850,000 sq ft is grade A office. The scheme is a major employment location for the city, boosted by its close proximity to Cardiff Central Station, with its tenants employing thousands of people.

Under its chief executive Paul McCarthy, its first project at Central Square - at the site of former Cardiff Council planning offices - was its 140,000 sq ft 1 Central Square office building. The first tenant to sign up to the building, which opened in 2016, was law firm Blake Morgan. Rightacres, with forward financing from L&G, then added the 150,000 sq ft 2 Central Square building, who main occupier is law firm Hugh James, before being selected, following a competitive tendering process, to deliver a new 180,000 sq ft headquarters building for BBC Wales at the site of the former bus station. The BBC building also has retail units at ground level.

Central Square has also provided a 270,000 sq ft new headquarters for HMRC in Wales (Ty Morgan), although it is also utilised by other UK Government departments, including the Wales Office.

Central Square’s Interchange scheme, which consists of a new HQ in the city for L&G, more than 300 BTR apartments for L&G Homes and a new bus station for the city, which recently opened, was its fourth project. The Interchange provides 120,000 sq of office space for L&G, which last year brought its two offices in the city under one roof. Its apartment and bus station elements extend to 500,000 sq ft.