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Plans to open up a hidden courtyard to create a new leisure location behind two of Cardiff’s historic arcades have been revealed.

Owner of the Castle Arcade Quarter, Mansford, said its proposed Castle Quarter Courtyard regeneration scheme will demolish and repurpose a redundant former nightclub, which sits in the space behind High Street and Duke Street arcades.

A new entrance is  would also be created through an existing passageway off High Street Arcade to the scheme, which is inspired by projects such as Soho’s Kingly Court, tucked away behind Carnaby Street.

Designed by Cardiff-based Rio Architects, and for which plans have been submitted to Cardiff Council, it would create four new spaces designed for independent bars and restaurants around a central, open courtyard.

Original features, which are currently hidden, will be exposed and a new large balcony running around the first floor has been incorporated into the design as part of the plans to enhance the features of the grade II listed arcade buildings.

Following the model of bar and restaurant developments in neighbouring Castle Arcade, the scheme will also incorporate several current retail units and open up unused spaces on the first and second floors to create more flexible spaces, better suited to the needs of hospitality and leisure businesses.

Phillip Morris, partner at EJ Hales is leading the development team. He said: “With this development, we have a unique opportunity to create new contemporary leisure spaces, regenerating derelict spaces and ensuring a bright future for one of our charming and characterful arcades.

“This site has been a tricky prospect for redevelopment in recent years. It’s trapped on all sides by the arcades and has no street frontage.

“The enforced break from Covid this year has given us a fresh perspective on the best way to bring the site back to life and replacing the old nightclub and opening up the site for new independent leisure and hospitality opportunities.

“As we look to the recovery of our hospitality and tourism economy in Cardiff, the addition of a new all-day destination in the heart of the Castle Quarter will be a huge asset for the city.”

Adrian Field, executive director of FOR Cardiff, the organisation behind City of Arcades campaign, said: “The Victorian and Edwardian shopping arcades and their independent businesses offer a unique leisure experience for residents and visitors. It’s exciting to see that offer being enhanced with this new development.

“We look forward to seeing what new business opportunities the Castle Quarter Courtyard will bring to our city, as it seeks to grow and develop after this difficult year.”

Associate partner at EJ Hales, Owen Cahill, said: “We are committed to creating spaces which inspire and enable the growth of independent businesses – and making sure we match them up with the best possible operators.

“This approach, coupled with new investment in the Arcades, has paid off with quality new openings like Dark by Dusty Knuckle, and most recently, Pasture choosing to expand into Cardiff.”

Stephen Barker, co-founder of premium destinations Coffee Barker, Rum & Fizz, Barker Tea house and Gin & Juice, is supporting the development team.

He said: “I’m passionate about the continued growth of the Castle Quarter. And trading at Castle Arcade for the past 40 years, I’ve witnessed its hospitality-driven transformation.

“My experience has shown that with sympathetic development, the historic arcades off High Street are perfect locations for some of the city’s most exceptional hospitality.

“We are absolutely supportive of this development and completely aligned with the landlord’s amazing vision and sensitive and cultured approach.

“This project represents a tremendous opportunity for Cardiff to step up to the next level with depth and refinement, for the people of Wales and all who visit our capital city.”

The Castle Quarter arcades estate includes more than 110 retail and leisure units.