Birmingham’s Eastside: The last 10 years

Sometimes it is good to recap on progress as if one lives in a city…this passes one by. I remember visiting my home town of Nottingham for many years after I left and I used to judge the pace of change by how many new shops had opened on Mansfield Road (an inner city road with perhaps 200 shop units). So I want in this post to recap what has happened to Birmingham’s Eastside since Millennium Point was completed in 2001 and since Masshouse Circus was demolished in 2002-3 and replaced by surface level crossings.

Eastside

Birmingham’s Eastside Area

This post ignores the BullRing development which is coming up for its 10th birthday as this is covered well elsewhere.

Pace in Eastside has sometimes seem slow and there have been many ups and downs and many disappointments but in reality there are 100’s of new jobs in the area and much more life. In development terms there to my knowledge have been the following developments.

The NTI ( Birmingham City University’s New Technology Institute) building opened in 2005 and it is the home to a wide range of software, visual and gaming training.

Birmingham City University's New Technology Institute

Birmingham City University’s New Technology Institute

The new Matthew Boulton college (now called Campus as it is part of Birmingham Metropolitan College) also opened in 2005.

Matthew Boulton College taken by Oosoom

Matthew Boulton College taken by Oosoom

Block 1 of Phase 1 of the Masshouse redevelopment – a significant apartment block development opened in December 2006. A subsequent residential block was completed in Spring 2011.

Masshouse Flats

Block 1 Apartments in the Masshouse Redevelopment

Whilst many of the plans of the developers on this site and the neighbouring City Park gate have had to be altered because of the slowdown in the property sector and Government cuts the Hotel La Tour was opened in March 2012 on an adjacent site at a cost of £24m. This development alone created 100 jobs.

La Tour Hotel

La Tour Hotel

Moor Street Station was refurbished in 2002 and has become a significant inter city station with fast trains to London competing with services from New Street station.

The Ormiston Academy opened more recently in 2011. This is the City’s new Performing Arts Academy.

Birmingham Ormiston Academy

The centre for performing arts in the City

The  £12.5m Millennium Point multi storey car park opened in 2011. This development help free up land for the new Eastside City Park and the new Birmingham City University Campus development.

Millennium Point Car Park

The new Eastside Park and Science Garden opened in 2012. The park is  the first major park in the city centre in 130 years and cost the City Council £11.75m.

Eastside Park Under Construction

Eastside Park Under Construction Summer 2012

Science Garden

Thinktank’s Science Garden a big success with Birmingham’s children

The new Birmingham City University campus is close to completion, phase 1 is due to be ready for students in September 2013. This will provide a state-of-the art home for the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD), incorporating a Media Hub, and marks the first step in creating a multi-million pound centre of excellence.

New BCU Campus

The new Birmingham City University’s creative campus

and slightly further afield

The new European BioEnergy research Institute is close to completion on Aston University campus. This institute partially funded by European resources is looking at how a variety of waste and other materials will be able to power city’s of the future.

European BioEnergy Research Institute

Aston University’s European BioEnergy Research Institute

The Aston University Engineering Academy opened in 2012. This facility is driving forward vocational education in the city.

AUEA

There have been new Aston University residential properties build on Jennens road and on the Queensway. New blocks are close to completion.

Aston University Student Accommodation

The Custard Factory has completed a further phase of its development with the opening of Zellig in May 2010.The £10 million 100,000 sq ft restoration is centred around three courtyards festooned with spectacular flying glass bridges, a remarkable floating sculpture by Tawny Gray and numerous other works of art. This provided 100 new offices/workspaces/retail units

This is Zellig

and  sister space Fazeley Studios opened in December 2008 following a £7.7m refurbishment of an old Victorian chapel and 1920’s factory space..   providing top quality space for digital firms; sufficent space for up to 500 people.

So development has been patchy but has progressed and as always there are significant plans for some of the remaining public sector and private sector sites. The big project that will shape the area more as it firms up is the planned HS2 station but as well BCU are planning extensions to their campus and Millennium Point is planning further changes and Birmingham City Council will need to finalise and find funding for the regeneration of listed Curzon Street station. I will cover these in a later post.

Birmingham City Council’s Development web  pages give some context to past and future plans

What is clear ten years ago no one knew where Millennium Point or Eastside was. Now Millennium Point is fully occupied and over 1 million people use it every year. Eastside is increasingly popular for young people from Thinktank and its Science Garden, the Giant Screen, to the new FE and HE facilities and from the creative quarter developments around the Custard Factory. Indeed Digbeth is often busier in the middle of the night than in day time given the number of clubs.  So Eastside is on its way! Well done Birmingham!

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7 comments

  1. That’s most illuminating, Patrick. It is/ seems to be/ a hidden area. Clearly it’s moved from an Edgelands zone to an enterprising one. I must take a wander/ look. Can it create a cultural/ eatery/ cafe infrastructure as a result. It may be doing this already ?

    1. Stuart, I think in and around the Custard Factory it is starting…with Yumms in the factory itself and there is a wonderful cafe in Fazeley Street studios…very well hidden but open to the public. I would recommend that one explores FSS..a wonderful space.. My problem with the main part of Eastside is the danger it becomes too corporate, too functional and not quirky and artistic enough. The key building for this is how they reuse Curzon street station. Hopefully a photography museum! Also another key issue is how Millennium Point’s communal areas are energised and profited from in
      cultural terms by the new CEO Philip Singleton.

  2. Just came across blog today. Nice read and good to see the development of Brum being recorded like this. I left in 99 to study and came back for 2 years in ’04-’06 and have since been in Bristol and London. Aiming to move back and settle for a while next year.

    Will bookmark this blog.

    1. Birmingham is a good place to settle, improves every year! I have been here since 1998.

      1. Yeah I agree the biggest problem with Birmingham is that it doesn’t know how to market itself and the way in which all good bits are separated by what feel like great expanses of grey.

        I think Brummies in general are quite lowkey and don’t shout about themselves and the city reflects that.

  3. Dom Moore · · Reply

    Great to see how its all moved on and all coming together, will further add to the ‘gem’ that is that area of the city. Looking forward to seeing it in the flesh on my trip back to the UK.

    1. There is a lot that is hidden and not well marketed. Lots of Arts Projects in Digbeth that don’t have much of a public space. The custard Factory seems at last to have enough weight to become a visitor/alternative retail attraction. Birmingham has improved immensely but there is lots more to do.

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