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Work starts on former Connaught Square site in Digbeth

Demolition work has begun on the former Connaught Square development in Digbeth - one the city's most long-awaited schemes which sits just 200 yards away from Birmingham's Bullring

Demolition starts at the former Connaught Square site in Bradford Street, Digbeth

Work has begun regenerate a prominent part of Birmingham city centre after it was held back for years by the economic gloom.

Demolition work has started on the former Connaught Square development in Digbeth - one of the city's most long-awaited schemes which sits just 200 yards away from the Bullring.

A previous £150 million scheme was first ventured in 2007 but fell foul of the recession and Connaught Square, a vehicle of Irish-based company Naus Group, collapsed in 2010.

It is back on its feet after Marlborough Property Company (MPC) bought the 3.34 acre site in the Irish Quarter - although little is known of the long-term plans.

 

Cranes from city firm DSM Demolition were pictured working on the site off Bradford Street this week.

That comes just weeks after MPC bought the site from administrator Begbies Traynor, acting on behalf of Ireland's National Asset Management Agency.

Nobody from DSM or Marlborough was available to comment but MPC director Darren Wright said in a statement after the takeover that plans were being worked up.

He said: "This is an exciting acquisition for us. MPC strongly believe in a vibrant urban environment and city centre sites of this scale are rare. We particularly like the dynamic of Digbeth which is a centre for creative industry in Birmingham.

"Post-summer we will be in a position to reveal our plans for the site, which will add something unique to the Midlands. The scheme reflects the character of Digbeth, a vibrant area of real creativity in what we believe is a very progressive city.

"MPC continues to seek out similar urban land deals as well as balancing this with it’s investment portfolio."

Connaught Square was originally planned as a 250,000 sq ft mixed-use scheme and was the subject of a land assembly pre-2007.

 

However, it remains one of the city's most high-profile schemes, owing to its proximity to the Bullring, as well as the Birmingham Curzon Masterplan work to better connect the city core to Digbeth.

Initial plans for Connaught Square were given the green light back in 2007 and would have marked a major transformation of rundown areas of Digbeth.

In addition to flats and a hotel, the scheme included plans for a pedestrian boulevard, providing access to two new public squares.

The original £150 million scheme comprised 658 apartments, a four-star hotel with sky bar and a new Irish Centre.

However, the project was later stopped in its tracks after Begbies Traynor were called in by backers Allied Irish Bank which was owed £24 million by Connaught Square.

The site is next to Birmingham coach station and runs between Digbeth's two principal thoroughfares, the High Street and Bradford Street.

It would have contained 1,000 underground parking spaces, two public squares that straddle the River Rea and public amenity space.

The project was also renowned for its promise to bring Birmingham's hidden river, the River Rea, back up to surface level in Digbeth - although it remains to be seen whether that will be a feature of any new plans.

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