Secret courtyard breathes new life into Cardiff Arcades

Plans have been revealed for a new ‘hidden’ courtyard in the heart of Cardiff’s historic Castle Quarter. 

Designed by Cardiff’s Rio Architects, the proposed 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 will be created through an existing passageway off High Street Arcade. 

Inspired by exemplar developments such as Soho’s Kingly Court, tucked away behind Carnaby Street and home to cutting edge bars and restaurants, the Castle Quarter Courtyard will create a new space to support, encourage and develop Cardiff’s diverse independent hospitality and retail offer.

The Castle Quarter Courtyard will 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 successful bar and restaurant developments in neighbouring Castle Arcade, the development will also incorporate several of the arcade’s 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 – 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,” he said.

Adrian Field, executive director of FOR Cardiff, the organisation behind the award-winning 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.”

“Such a development will enhance our reputation for a great food offering and play a role in ensuring that Cardiff’s Purple Flag accreditation, which requires a need to demonstrate we have a vibrant, quality offering in the evening and night time economy, is met,” he said.

Owen Cahill, associate partner at EJ Hales added:

“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,” he said.

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 – 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 continue to stream huge investments into the area and are always looking to expand here. With substantial skin in the game already, that’s testament to our faith in the continued evolution of this historic part of the city.

“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,” he said.

The Castle Quarter Arcades estate includes more than 110 retail and leisure units. It occupies a substantial area at the heart of Cardiff city centre, providing an historic link between major attractions such as Cardiff Castle, Bute Park and the Civic Centre and the capital’s main retail hubs. The Arcades are owned by a Mansford fund and the development team includes property consultants EJ Hales, Rio Architects, TLT Solicitors, Avison Young and Knight Frank.

Plans have been submitted to Cardiff Council planning department