A FORMER bank in the heart of Newport city centre could be set for a new lease of life, with plans to turn it into a 'Geek Retreat'.

The premises at 174 Commercial Street is thought to have stood empty for some time, ever since Santander which previously occupied the building closed.

Most recently, the once thriving bank next to the Westgate Hotel has been boarded up, and looking a little worse for wear.

But now, there are plans afoot to bring it back to life.

According to a new planning application submitted to Newport City Council, there is hope to make a few minor alterations to the premises, as part of plans to reopen as a retail unit and café.

Artist impressions submitted along with the application show that there is hope that the site can be turned into a Geek Retreat – a nationwide chain which sells comics, pop culture merchandise, and tabletop games.

Their stores are also known to combine retail space with a café, and space to hold tabletop gaming competitions.

The planning application has been submitted by Liam Powell of Aberbargoed.

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What do plans show?

According to planning documents, the applicant is looking to secure listed building consent to install an external hanging sign, to repaint the existing shopfront, and to carry out work on the existing toilet facilities inside to accommodate disabled access.

The property, which is believed to date back to 1885, has been given Grade II listed status by Cadw, and as a result, every effort must be made to retain the original features and characteristics of the property.

A heritage statement submitted with this application claims that the changes to the toilet layouts will have no impact on the significance of the building, due to the current condition of the ground floor, dating back to its time as a bank.

South Wales Argus: How the store could look, if plans are approvedHow the store could look, if plans are approved

Meanwhile, the external work is said to have “minimal impact to the significance of the building as there will be no structural changes and we will utilise the existing signage backboard to install the signage.”

Continuing, the applicant said: “Overall, we feel that the proposed changes will have a positive impact to the building as it will bring the building back into beneficial use as a commercial property as was its history.

“We will be able to achieve this without impacting any of the significant features.”

Comic and geek scene in Newport and South Wales

If these plans are approved, it will prove to be the third retailer in the city centre specialising in comics and sub-culture.

Located a short distance away in Friars Walk is Sin City Comics, and, once Newport Indoor Market reopens, Friendly Neighbourhood Comics is set to return to the city centre.

Meanwhile, in late 2020 Geek Retreat announced plans to rapidly expand across the UK.

South Wales Argus: The current state of the boarded up unitThe current state of the boarded up unit

Originally a Scottish company, they hope to have around 100 locations across the UK by the end of 2022.

This includes a branch in Cardiff, and another in Hereford already.

The planning application can be viewed and commented upon here.