The King’s Hotel, in Newport city centre, is under offer and could be converted into luxury flats, if the potential new owner’s plans get the go ahead.
And the man behind the bid, one of TV’s Secret Millionaires, Cardiff-based businessman Jahan Abedi, said the time is right to invest in Newport as the city can only go one way – up.
Mr Abedi, who feels the city has real potential, is already currently converting the former Shire Hall close to the city’s railway station into luxury flats.
And says the next possible venture could be the Westgate Hotel.
He said: “I believe that Newport has the potential of being the great city as it once was a century ago.
“It was once the coal capital of the world and there is such a rich history behind it. This can be seen by the beautiful historic buildings which are dotted around the city, most of which have sadly fallen into disrepair.
“I believe that the property in Newport is heavily undervalued. The city has some structurally magnificent old buildings which would be great to work and live in.
“We cannot build these units at the prices they are being marketed as, as the labour and material costs of today would make it economically impossible.
Mr Abedi, an Iranian who moved to Cardiff 25 years ago, said: “When I first came to Cardiff it was an underfunded city and many areas were derelict and rundown. A realistic attitude from Cardiff City Council changed the city.
“I see Newport going the same way and there are plan for some major public and private investments in the city. This can only have a positive impact on the infrastructure and we would like to be part of that positive change.
Mr Abedi, who’s company Imperial Property Consultants has a number of properties along the M4, said: “We have a simple formula for our conversions. The Kings Hotel is a unique 200-year-old character building and the aim, like Shire Hall, is to convert it to create spacsious modern units without the soul of the building.
“It is a good investment because I believe Newport City Council’s new positive attitude will hopefully change the decline of the city centre and so the time is right to invest here.
Mr Abedi, who is also managing director of the Chameleon Group in Cardiff which owns venues including The Potted Pig and The Vulcan Lounge, might also to be tempted to consider the Westgate Hotel as a possible future project.
He said: “If the council does help in cutting the red tape as it has started to and make it more attractive for private investment, the Westgate Hotel must be the next step. Without its rejuvenation, the city centre decline has not been truly rolled back.”
The turnaround of the city centre took a huge step forward recently when 450 staff moved into Admiral’s new building on Queensway.
Mr Abedi said: “It is still too soon to tell what impact the Admiral building will have but some apartments at Shire Hall have been sold to people working there and with the new footbridge coming to connect Shire Hall with the city centre it is an obvious choice for them.
“I am a positive person. I started with no money when I first came to Wales and have gone through the hard times to get here. If we are positive and support the city, its hard times will pass as well. Just remember what Cardiff was like 25 years ago and what the London Docklands was like 35 years ago and look at them now.
Mr Abedi has invested substantially in the city and said: “Providing things keep improving with the council and providing we get the community support, we will continue to look for further investments in the future.”
One building he has already invested in is the former Shire Hall in Pentonville.
He said: “Shire Hall is a landmark Newport building built more than a century ago at a time when the city founders were making a statement to the world about Newport’s rise as a world trading power.
“The building and its unique features are a living testament to Newport’s past. I’ve been involved with more than 200 projects and this one is very close to my heart.
“When I first walked into Shire Hall and saw this breathtaking Edwardian building dying slowly because of vandalism and neglect, it really did affect me.
“I am passionate about property and I saw the opportunity to create something special here. The first phase will be finished next month and we have sold 80 per cent of it already. The first 10 apartments have been handed over and the owners have moved in. This proves that the demand is there in Newport for high quality, spacious conversions.
Mr Abedi said: “We are constantly looking and investing in Wales. It never stops. We are earning money in Wales and living here. The money must be invested back here to improve it.”