Work begins to sell the Birmingham Curzon Masterplan to the world at MIPIM – as architects say the proposals stand to change the city centre forever.
Plans exclusively revealed in the Post last week showed the city wants to regenerate 141 hectares of the city centre on the back of the new HS2 station.
The plan includes extending the Midland Metro, which will pass through Curzon Street HS2 Station, and a park on top of the 1,100-yard-long Duddeston Viaduct.
City architects have told the Post the proposals will drastically alter the way people travel through the city, opening up avenues to Eastside which have been troublesome for decades.
However, the 25-year vision will live and die by private sector investment – so interest drummed up at Cannes will be key to seeing it turned into a reality.
Waheed Nazir, director for planning and regeneration at Birmingham City Council, told the Post that the scheme would offer major development opportunity.
It also sets out to deliver clarity to investors over the future of that part of the city centre.
He said: “The flow of people is changing. We are trying to give them an understanding of maximising the growth potential.
“The biggest issue for development is clarity – and this gives greater clarity.”
“The first thing to say is we would be willing to support. It is setting out where the growth potential is, and this in particular is retail growth.
“In Digbeth it is about creative industries and giving more clarity about where the growth will take place.” The plans set out to boost the city’s economy by £1.3 billion each year with more than 14,000 jobs, 148 acres of new employment floorspace and 2,000 new homes.
The developments will be focused around the new city centre station – Birmingham Curzon – but Sir Albert told the Post he wants to see major progress well in advance of the station being completed in 2026.
The station would be served by Metro trams on a new route branching off the extension, currently being built through the city centre.
Architect Dav Bansal, director at Glenn Howells Architects, who was a member of the Big City Plan team for Birmingham City Council’s masterplan, said the Birmingham Curzon Masterplan would be transformational.
“It is certainly going to transform the city, without a doubt, in terms of the movement of people around the city,” he said.
“There has been a lot of focus on the central city core and the west side of the city, and a great deal of commercial development and culture, but while the east and south sides have a distinct character they haven’t developed as well as other parts.
“By bringing this major piece of transport infrastructure in, it will be a catalyst.
“I was involved with the Eastside masterplan four years ago and I remember drawing these blocks up and thinking about the use.
“We struggled then because Eastside was struggling in terms of how it complements, and doesn’t compete with, Birmingham.
“Now, with the university campus and Millenium Point it is increasingly seen as a place for innovation, and with the digital quarter in Digbeth and a high-speed station it really changes the dynamics.”
Mr Bansal said the principal challenge now was not only expanding the city core, but to convince the city that the centre has been enlarged.
He said Digbeth has been cut off by transport issues, and while they are being solved, people will have to change their views and habits to start using a wider city core.
However, writing in the Post today, city architect Joe Holyoak said the proposals left many unanswered questions.
Mr Bansal said a major upshot of the changes would be the connectivity through the city centre by car
He said: “In the whole masterplan document, there is hardly a mention of cars. The Curzon Masterplan is a dramatic illustration of the changed transport priorities in the recent Birmingham Mobility Action Plan, with its emphasis on public transport, walking and cycling.
“Birmingham is rightly anxious to reinvent itself, and rid itself of its damaging reputation as Motor City.
“This is welcome, and long overdue, but how realistic are the masterplan’s aspirations for huge employment growth in Digbeth if access by vehicles is to become so restricted?”
The proposals were drawn up in-house by the city council – and were turned around quickly to meet funding deadlines and be ready to present at MIPIM.
It is forecast that there will be 1,760 passengers boarding, alighting and changing at Curzon Street station in the morning peak hour and approximately 1,870 in the evening peak hour when it is built in 2026.