One of the largest city centre regeneration schemes in history has taken a step closer after plans to create a family and leisure hub on the Wholesale Markets site were unveiled.
Long-awaited £500 million proposals to redevelop 34.2 acres of prime city centre land around the markets have gone on show at property conference MIPIM today.
The ten-year vision, which sees the area rebranded Birmingham Smithfield, is aiming to build museums, cinemas, art galleries and music venues to be created on the run down area bordering the Bullring.
The site will deliver more than one million sq ft of floorspace, 1,000 new homes and 3,000 new jobs, adding £470 million a year to the local economy and attracting millions more visitors to the region, according to the city council.
The proposals also set out plans to pedestrianise Upper Dean Street, create new pedestrian and cycle routes and Market Square, a public space service as the focal point for the site.
Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, said Birmingham Smithfield presented a “once in a generation” opportunity.
He said: “Our plans for Birmingham Smithfield will create a vibrant new destination – adding to the city’s reputation as a top visitor destination and a great place to live and do business.”
City council proposals to clear land for a major scheme on the Wholesale Markets site led to widescale protests before it was moved to a 210,000 sq ft purpose built centre in Witton.
The new plans, outlined in a vision document, show why the authority was so keen to clear the site, with a vast regeneration opportunity including retail markets alongside the family quarter and new residential neighbourhoods.
The area represents one of the largest redevelopment sites in single ownership in the country.
The redevelopment will also be central to unlocking a much wider area for transformation along the River Rea Corridor and deliver new residential communities and employment opportunities.
The scheme aims to capitalise on its location next to the prime shopping area which attracts more than 40 million visitors a year, spending £2 billion on the local economy.
Waheed Nazir, director of planning and regeneration at the city council, said: “This is about clearly articulating the scale of this opportunity, which is massive. It is a chance to create a world-class leisure and family quarter.”
The Market Square proposals will be at the centre of a more pedestrian-friendly area with better cycle routes.
The space will provide a setting for St Martin’s Church and the council said it will create an area “that is of the highest quality design incorporating water and hard and soft landscape features”.
International design firm Gensler has undertaken initial work as the city aims to cater to both local and international audiences.
It is hoped the square can become a hub for cultural events and give the city a landmark space which is well connected and accessible by public transport.
This also has the potential to link into a redesigned and pedestrian-friendly Ladywell Walk. Delivering the square will involve the closure of Upper Dean Street and reconfiguring Moat Lane gyratory.
Car parking will also be rationalised to “reduce the dominance of road infrastructure”.
Connecting the site to the wider city is also key to the proposals, which include an extended Bromsgrove Street, linking east-west through the site.
Naming the scheme Birmingham Smithfield is a nod to the history of the area, dating back to 1166, with its focus on markets.
The launch of the plan marks the start of an eight-week public consultation as the city seeks to deliver a “legacy development”.
The Midland Metro tram system will be integrated into the site and bring Birmingham Smithfield within minutes of the proposed high-speed rail terminus at nearby Curzon Street.
Mr Nazir said the retail markets would be improved to encourage niche and specialist traders to locate alongside the famous brands on offer at the nearby Bullring.
He added: “This is about Birmingham being proud of its DNA and celebrating it. We want developers to be able to be creative and to celebrate the markets, allowing them to spill outside and interact.
“The example I have often used is Camden. In Birmingham, we have tended to turn our back on our markets but this is about being proud of them and putting them at the heart of a major scheme.”
Birmingham Smithfield brings together a comprehensive area that includes the Wholesale Markets site, the Bull Ring Markets and Moat Lane gyratory.
It is the largest of five strategic ‘areas of transformation’ identified to deliver growth in the Big City Plan. Birmingham Smithfield will be at the heart of the largest area, the Southern Gateway, which extends more than 202.6 acres.
Funding has been allocated by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to support future delivery in this area.
Chairman Andy Street said: “Birmingham Smithfield provides a new and exciting opportunity to secure investment for the city’s gathering renaissance which will create new jobs and long-term economic growth.
“The site’s status as part of the City Centre Enterprise Zone will bring added impetus. The LEP is absolutely behind realising huge opportunities such as Birmingham Smithfield and over £40 million of enterprise zone funding has already been committed to supporting the delivery of these plans.”
A series of exhibitions and events will be held as part of the consultation exercise.