A landmark tower block in the centre of Birmingham has finally bitten the dust after being painstakingly dismantled brick-by-brick to make way for the new John Lewis store at New Street Station.
Stephenson Tower, which was built as part of the 1960s redevelopment of New Street Station, was carefully taken apart by 1,000 construction workers over a six-month period to make way for the largest John Lewis department store outside London.
The store will form part of the New Street Gateway scheme that will transform Birmingham’s main transport hub.
The 22-storey residential tower was stripped of fixtures and fittings and cleared of harmful asbestos used in the original construction. Workers removed skip loads of debris resulting from more than 45 years of city living.
In recent years the building, which was once used to house some of the stars of the Crossroads soap opera, filmed at the nearby ATV studios, became an eyesore riddled with damp and other problems.
Residents were slowly rehoused and the drab, concrete pile was readied for demolition.
Fridges, wardrobes and an assortment of personal effects owned by some of the thousands of tenants who had resided in Stephenson Tower, but left behind as tenants moved out, were taken away as the tower block finally disappeared from the Birmingham skyline.
Sitting above Platform 12 of the station, demolishing the building via controlled explosion was never an option for engineers. The tower was encased in a protective wrap and taken down piece by piece to minimise noise, dust and disruption to local businesses, residents and traffic.
Around 7,000 tonnes of concrete were removed, 95 per cent of which will be recycled.
The demolition of the tower, considered to be the blueprint for city living when tenants moved into its apartments in 1966, was the first visible sign of progress in the £600 million project to transform New Street Station and welcome the new John Lewis outlet to the city.
The showpiece store, measuring a massive 155,000 sq ft, is being built by the workers employed on the demolition of the flats and is expected to be completed in 2014.
It will be spread across four floors and create 650 jobs.
Chris Montgomery, Network Rail project director, said: “The redevelopment of New Street will deliver a fantastic new station for passengers with more space, better access and better facilities.
"The project also delivers economic benefits and the successful demolition of Stephenson Tower is another step forward in our plans for a new look Pallasades and John Lewis store that will create jobs and help regeneration in Birmingham city centre.”
The redeveloped Pallasades and John Lewis will open to customers in autumn 2014 with the station redevelopment completing in 2015.
Centro chairman Coun Angus Adams said: “The disappearance of the tower is the first major sign of the enormous amount of work that’s been going on at New Street; it’s just that most of it has, until now, been inside and hidden from view.
“That work will now become increasingly visible as we move forward on building a station that passengers and the West Midlands as whole can be proud of.”
New Street station will remain open to passengers throughout the project with passengers noticing the first major changes to their journey at the end of this year when the first half of the new station concourse opens over Christmas 2012.