Buzzing suburb is thriving again
YOU might not find Hugh Grant or Julia Roberts wandering around.
But maybe there is still an element of one of their best known films in the air. Because for Notting Hill, read Uplands. A suburb of Swansea that these days is becoming increasingly trendy.
This summer has helped confirm its new-found status. It has become an alternative attraction to the city centre's Wind Street.
Drinkers spill onto the pavements, particularly at weekends, and unofficial taxi ranks have sprouted up.
In Swansea social speak, it is the new place to be seen.
That might vaguely amuse seasoned regulars at the Uplands Tavern, which has probably seen it all in its time. But the emergence of new bars and restaurants has made it a cool place to go.
Keith Lewis co-owns the Verve 37 bar and restaurant which opened in mid-summer. It was previously Robin Wayne Florists, but had lain empty for three years until he took it on.
"The area has become much more cosmopolitan," he says. "It has been a good decision to move in here, without a doubt. Business has gone up week on week, every week. People are making comments on Facebook like 'Is this the new Mumbles?' It is all going very well and is positive."
The Gower Kitchen restaurant opened next door in April on a site previously occupied by an Indian restaurant. But in the four years since it closed, its rundown state did little to enhance the area.
Co-owner Chris Pearson says: "We saw the place and decided to go for it. I used to work in Tesco in the Uplands two years ago and it has got busier. Since we first opened queues of taxis have started appearing outside. That is a sign of how busy the area is."
Urban retreat business Triggs & James metroSpa arrived in The Grove in June and employs 10 people.
Co-owner Scott Crawford-Triggs says: "The Uplands is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance. It has a palpable cosmopolitan feel, reminiscent of Islington, Camden or Notting Hill in London
"The customer demographic is unique in Swansea too; students, professionals, tradesmen, yuppies all enjoying a wide scope of services in the same place, and the scope of businesses available are in a compact area with plenty of character and a real buzz about it. Put simply, we wanted to be a part of that and felt we would contribute too."
Margaret Nicolle, manager of the long established Uplands Book Shop, says it is great to see shop units which had been empty for a while, filled again.
"Noah's Yard started all this comeback," she adds.
"It has brought people to the Uplands. Even though they are mainly going to the bars in the evening it does make them aware of what is in the Uplands. It can only be positive for the area that these shops have been filled."
The family-run Colliers Photo Imaging business in Sketty Road has been going since 1989 and boss Neil Collier says of the Uplands revival: "Fantastic is what most people think about it. I think this time last year there were eight empty premises. Now I think there is only one. It is good to see businesses open."
Mr Collier thinks the area is now a nice mix of daytime businesses complemented by bars and restaurants in the evening.
"It is a good blend," he says. "It is nice to have somewhere to go in your downtime."
Pat Dwan, who has lived in the Uplands for 30 years, thinks it is changed for the better.
"At one stage it was inundated with charity shops, but the tide seems to be turning," he says. "It has now become more upmarket, with wine bars filling the void, like Noah's Yard and Verve 37. And we are looking forward to the reopening of the Uplands Tavern on Friday after refurbishment. It has become very vibrant. It is a mini-town, a mini-Notting Hill.
"All the new businesses have helped attract people in from the outside, which can only be good for the area. It is great for the economy of Uplands traders. The new businesses are all a welcome addition to the Uplands and long overdue. And long may it continue."
Lance Pardoe, founder and co-owner of local institution The Uplands Diner says when he first came to the area 20 years ago, the Uplands was buzzing.
"Then it really went downhill.
"But since Tesco came here five years ago, and other chains like KFC and Sainsbury's followed, it has started buzzing again.
"Competition is good. If four people come to KFC and three of them like it, but the fourth would rather a burger or breakfast I might pick up another customer.
"The volume of footfall since Tesco has come has been great."
And with an ice cream parlour, a coffee shop and another wine bar/restaurant also on the cards there, it seems the area is falling in with Mr Pardoe's vision for the area.
"You have got to have some variety," he says.
Noah Redfern opened Noah's Yard at the start of 2010 and has not regretted it.
"I just knew it was a good location," he says. "I could see the city was crying out for an independent cafe bar.
It is a pleasure to work here and meet the people who come through the door. As long as it doesn't get like Wind Street.
"Uplands traditionally has had a colourful array of people. Uplands was originally an area of wealth, the Uplands."
And Noah tries to reflect the Bohemian spirit of the area by using changing subtitles on the frontage to reflect current events.
Recent ones have included Merv the Swerve in tribute to former Swansea and Wales rugby great Mervyn Davies after his death and Brendan Who? after the departure of Swans manager Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool.
"The place doesn't need a brand anymore," he says. "It is creating something people want to talk about."
A bit like the Uplands itself these days. . .