Businesses and residents can have their say on vast changes to Birmingham city centre after a consultation was launched to capitalise on £250 million investment.
With the John Lewis, Grand Central and Mailbox redevelopments in the short-term, and major work around the HS2 Curzon Street Station and Wholesale Markets to come, the city centre is set for its biggest changes in generations.
A six-week consultation has been launched over a new retail strategy to cope with massive change.
It is expected to see key spots like Corporation Street and Bull Street improved by public realm investment as well as a focus on boosting independent retailers and cutting nuisances on city streets.
Waheed Nazir, director of planning and regeneration at the council, said £30 million of enterprise zone resources were in place to make the most of opportunities in the city core. He said: “If you have John Lewis, Grand Central and the Mailbox all happening in the space of a year you have to accept that footfall is going to change.
“We have got to improve the quality around Corporation Street and that area. The strategy needs to be clear that in order to do that we need to have investment in the public realm, and that is the case right around the city.
“There is a quarter of a million pounds already in place from the private sector and we have £30 million from the local growth deals in the enterprise zone. That is a lot of money going in.”
With funding in place to expand the Metro across the city centre, plans for the retail core come ahead of major transport changes with proposals to reduce vehicle traffic.
At the launch of the retail strategy at Birmingham Town Hall, the audience heard the council was also looking into how it could use its land to boost independent retailers in the city.
The authority said it would see the retail core’s current offer expanded to include leisure, family entertainment and the revitalisation of key streets as well as capitalising on a range of investments currently under way.
Some highlights include the £150 million Grand Central shopping centre with its £35 million flagship John Lewis store, a £50 million refurbishment of The Mailbox, £20 million refurbishment of Selfridges and more than £300 million on the Metro network.
The vision has been developed in partnership with Retail Birmingham, the business improvement district for the retail area, and has been informed by extensive stakeholder engagement.
A six-week public consultation will start on September 19 and the strategy can be downloaded from the city council’s website.
City council leader Sir Albert Bore said: “We have to have a vibrant and exciting environment in the city centre.
“The vision will soften the south side of the city, with the redevelopment of the Wholesale Markets site, and the arrival of HS2 will bring a lot of benefits.
“People are using city centres differently. Now people visit city centres for a day out – could you have thought of that 20 years ago in Birmingham?
“You couldn’t have. But now they are coming in to go to the cinema, have something to eat or see an exhibition as well as shopping.”
The plans seek to improve the environment on the city’s streets, with the advent of online retail making destination shopping a core issue. There will be a focus on keeping people safe and a keen eye on street sellers and charity fundraisers.
With Grand Central complementing the Bullring and Mailbox’s retail offer, it is thought the The Martineau Galleries scheme, which is currently up for sale, will be more mixed-use than retail focused, with offices and residential taking up a large part of the space.
Meanwhile, it is expected there will be a focus on family leisure – which most accept the city core is lacking – to the south of the city core, with the Wholesale Markets site playing a key role.
Much relies on attracting more visitors into the city centre and David Atkins from Hammerson, which owns 50 per cent of Bullring, said that is a realistic target.
He said there was greater opportunity to bring in visitors from abroad – using the example of Bicester Village, where 75 per cent of its 17 million visitors every year come from outside the EU.
“Retail just doesn’t cut it any more – you have to offer a broader experience, and that is where Birmingham really has the chance to excel,” he added.
Jonathan Cheetham, chair of Retail Birmingham, identified public realm work outside New Street Station as a key facet to improving the city core.
He added: “The only mistake cities make is not changing and that is not a mistake that Birmingham will ever make again.
“Instead of being third in the retail rankings, we will be back where we belong, on the way to being second.”
The consultation runs until October 31. To make comments visit www.birmingham.gov.uk/ccretailstrategy