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Road to 'Paradise' mapped out as 11 years of building begins

Arguably Birmingham's biggest redevelopment project in a generation will begin in January as city braces itself for road closures and diversions and the final curtain call for Central Library

The full scale of the work on the biggest project in Birmingham city centre since the Bullring opened more than a decade ago can today be revealed.

Work will start next month on the £500 million regeneration of Paradise Circus, now known simply as 'Paradise' - and construction will last for the next 11 years.

The massive scheme will see the old Central Library bulldozed and the Paradise Forum shopping centre replaced with new office blocks, a cycle hub, landscaping and a highway system.

The entire project is scheduled for completion in 2026. Enterprise Zone finance is in place, along with a rock solid commitment, to complete the first phase of works no matter what.

This will see two new grade A office buildings, both likely to be seven floors and with 170,000 sq ft of space.

"One Chamberlain Square", on the library site, is due for completion by early 2018 and "Two Chamberlain Square" around six months later, marking the end of phase one.

The Paradise Circus Queensway traffic system will be completely rerouted and public squares will be built.

Buildings later in the development process will be taller, including potentially a 20-storey replacement for the Copthorne Hotel, which will become a Millennium hotel, and eight grade A office blocks are planned in total.

Construction, which starts on January 5, is being brought forward through a joint venture company called Paradise Circus Partnership, made up of Birmingham City Council and BT Pension Scheme.

It is being managed by Hermes Real Estate with Argent as development manager, the company which created Brindleyplace, off Broad Street.

Rob Groves, senior project director with Argent, who is leading the project, told the Post: "This development is one of the biggest of its type outside of central London, with commercial office space, to have happened in a decade.

"It's going to be a few minutes away from New Street, it will potentially have a Metro stop outside its front door and is right in the heart of the city.

"We believe it's one of the best located and best opportunities for this type of development outside the capital when you see the fantastic buildings surrounding it such as the Council House and Town Hall.

"It's fantastic for Birmingham and obviously the city's not been getting great press recently."

The first two high-quality office blocks are being developed speculatively with no tenant as yet waiting in the wings.

But Mr Groves said they were "very confident" about the way the market was going.

"We've had a lot of interest and there are very strong requirements, both within the region to relocate and other big corporate occupiers currently in London who cannot retain staff and are looking elsewhere.

"We need to make sure we have the space for those people to come."

Inevitably, with progress comes sacrifice, and major roadworks to re-route Paradise Circus Queensway are scheduled to start next month and take until mid-2016 to complete.

The map and panel (pictured) show the extent to which that part of the city centre will be affected for both cars and public transport as certain bus routes will also be diverted to accommodate the project.

The aim is to put a pedestrian crossing on Great Charles Street Queensway at Congreve Passage, close the part of the Paradise Circus Queensway roundabout which runs under the library, and make the road which runs from Sand Pits along the end of Broad Street into a two-way street.

Mr Groves added: "From mid-January traffic management will be visual.

"There will be constant information coming through about what those changes are and the first information leaflets will be going out this week with other information available early in January.

"The key thing is letting people know in advance and there are signs all over the city, not just locally.

"There will be changes and it will take a little while to settle down but when you look at the benefits of what this is going to bring to the city, it's huge. We're part of that change of taking out the damage that the highway has done."

The first phase of the project will see the disappearance of Central Library, a building loved and loathed in equal measure.

Designed by Birmingham architect John Madin and opened in January 1974, Central Library was a perfect example of the Brutalist architecture movement and one of several buildings bearing his signature in the city.

Mr Groves claimed that, despite the "vocal minority", most people were behind its demolition during the public consultation process.

"I've met with various people and the Friends of the Library and, during the consultation process, it became clear that about 90 per cent of people don't appreciate it," he said.

"From January 5, we will be in there stripping it out and the main structure of the library will start to come down from the end of February.

"It is done in phases as we have to accommodate a large footfall through the site, but the demolition will be completed by October 2015."

Once it has gone, a wide boulevard-style street will be in place, offering pedestrians a view from Centenary Square through what is currently Paradise Forum and directly to the Council House clock tower.

Tenants in the forum, including McDonald's, Greggs, Wetherspoons and Nando's, are staying open to benefit from Christmas trade but all will be out by the January 5 start date.

The project has been on the drawing board for around seven years and has been re-branded from Paradise Circus to simply Paradise.

Mr Groves explained that dropping the word Paradise and giving it a new name was never going to be a consideration because of Paradise Street, the old road which runs in front of the Town Hall and lent its name to the Paradise Circus Queensway roundabout.

He said: "We are repairing the fabric of the streets and repairing the damage that was done by the highways – so why do we need the 'Circus'?"

"We can't and we wouldn't take away 'Paradise' because Paradise Street is where the history comes from and that would be the wrong thing to do.

"We've taken the ‘Circus' out because it's not going to be a roundabout any more."

Next year will be one of major significance for Birmingham with the completion of New Street station and the Metro extension and the opening of John Lewis and Grand Central among several other projects and events.

Work on another office-led development in Broad Street, Arena Central, will also begin.

Mr Groves accepted that the two projects would be competing for tenants but was bullish about the pair's overall positive effect on the city.

"We take the view that this all helps the city, to be honest," he said.

"Yes, we will compete for occupiers but when you look at what Miller Developments plans to do with Arena Central, it's fantastic for the city.

"In the medium to long-term, Paradise absolutely helps Arena Central and it helps the regeneration of the blocks along Great Charles Street Queensway. The public realm work will enhance it hugely. From the city's perspective, it is absolutely the right thing to do."

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