business

New future revealed for Curzon Street landmark

Famous entrance to old station will be visitor centre and education hub under new plans unveiled by HS2

Birmingham's historic Curzon Street station is to be brought back to life with a visitor centre and education hub under newly revealed plans.

The Grade I-listed entrance building, which is the oldest surviving railway terminal in the world, has been disused for years but will be reborn as a focal point of the new site in Eastside which will eventually house the HS2 station.

New proposals for the city council-owned site have been revealed by HS2, the Government company set up to deliver the high-speed rail line between London and Birmingham.

The aim is to carry out a full refurbishment of the 1830s building to create a visitor centre, meeting rooms, exhibition space and a café on the ground floor.

Upper floors are set to be used by Historic England, the government body which lists historic buildings and monuments, and workshops for Birmingham City University's STEAMHouse project.

How Curzon Street station looks today

This initiative aims to encourage collaboration between the arts, science, technology, engineering and maths (STEAM) sectors which is due to launch by the end of 2017 before eventually taking space in the former Typhoo Tea factory in Digbeth.

There will also be a small amount of car and bike parking and landscaping as part of the conversion project.

Waheed Nazir, corporate director of economy with Birmingham City Council, said: "The former Curzon Street station building is one of the oldest railway terminus buildings in the world and a monumental piece of architecture.

"Sitting in the heart of Birmingham Eastside, which will be home to HS2, this building symbolises an exciting future, as well as celebrating the city's important rail heritage.

"Birmingham City Council has been working closely with HS2 and Birmingham City University to consider measures to protect this Grade I-listed building and ensure that it's around for another 180 years, as well as marking the arrival of high-speed rail in the city.

"Depending on the outcome of the consultation process, the planning committee will make a decision on the application in July."

CGI shows how the new HS2 station will sit alongside the old Curzon Street terminal

A series of renovation works are planned by HS2 which would include floor strengthening, decoration and remodelling of the interior.

Documents accompanying the planning application say the expected internal experience of the restored building would be described as "urban and edgy", utilising untreated or white washed walls and stripped floorboards.

The refurbishment works are expected to be completed by early 2018.

The original Curzon Street station was designed by Philip Hardwick, the London-born architect synonymous with railway stations and warehouses, and matches his other famous work, Doric Arch at Euston Square.

The station frontage cost £28,000 to build and was used as the Birmingham terminus for the London and Birmingham Railway Co. (LB&R) line running between the city and Euston.

Aerial picture of Eastside shows the building and the planned HS2 site

It opened in 1838 and its original function was as the boardroom and offices of LB&R with limited waiting facilities for railway passengers.

The line was the first connecting London and Birmingham and was engineered by Robert Stephenson, welcoming the first arrival from London on September 17, 1838.

Since opening, Curzon Street station has also been used as a hotel and a goods depot after services were diverted from the site to the newly constructed New Street station in 1854.

The goods depot closed in 1966.

According to a heritage statement prepared by Atkins, British Rail twice sought permission for the building to be demolished, in 1907 and 1978, before Birmingham City Council took over ownership in 1979 since when it has been occupied for a period by charities.

It has been vacant since 2006 but has served as a temporary home for art exhibitions and featured in the Birmingham Post's Hidden Spaces series which delved behind the doors of the city's heritage buildings.

Previous planning applications lodged for the site include conversion into a home for the Royal College of Organists and the creation of a new IKON art gallery.

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