Birmingham firm Urban Coffee Company has become the first to sign up to a major development bringing a landmark city building back to life.

The coffee chain will open a giant café at the old HSBC building in Paradise Street – currently home to Snobs nightclub – which is also set to house a hotel, and restaurant when fully developed.

It is part of a £16 million scheme at the site known as the Beneficial Building, which was the first pre-cast concrete building in Birmingham but has been largely vacant for years after its owners fell into administration in 2008.

The Urban Coffee shop – which will be the firm’s fourth outlet, and by far its largest – is expected to open late next year.

Development of the seven-storey Beneficial Building is designed to coincide with the renaissance of that part of the city in the coming years, with the John Lewis, Paradise Forum and Mailbox work all in the pipeline.

Urban Coffee Company founder Simon Jenner said the café was the growing firm’s most ambitious move to date.

It already has two cafés, in Church Street and in the Jewellery Quarter, and is set to open another at the School Yard development in Harborne, but at Beneficial it will serve food from breakfast to tea and the kitchen will also oversee room service for the hotel.

“It is probably double the size of anything we have done before,” he said.


Simon Jenner, owner of Urban Coffee Company
Simon Jenner, owner of Urban Coffee Company

 

“We are evolving our model. Like most start-up businesses we learn. Our first one in Church Street was predominantly coffee and a pastry but the Jewellery Quarter one has a kitchen and we do more food there.

“We would do the same in Church Street if we had the space.

“It is still a coffee café – it is not a restaurant – but it is in that middle ground, which is on trend with a lot of places in London like that.”

The new cafe will be spread across two floors, totalling more than 3,000 sq ft, including 538 sq ft of conference space to be rented out for events.

Urban currently employs 17 people but expects that to more than double with Harborne and Beneficial. Mr Jenner also told the Post he was currently in talks about opening outside the city for the first time, in Coventry.

Last year Urban was referred to by the New York Times in an article praising Birmingham for its culinary scene.

The new café is expected to open late next year, and will create 100 new jobs, including at least 50 for young, unemployed people.

Mr Jenner said it was an exciting part of the city in which to be based. He added: “At the moment it isn’t a location, but all that is set to change with the library being knocked down and that area being developed. And of course there is the building itself – there will be an apartment hotel there.

“We are also ahead of a lot, with the metro coming in as well.”


The 1960s Beneficial building is set to be transformed
The 1960s Beneficial building is set to be transformed

 

Originally the headquarters of HSBC bank in Birmingham, the Beneficial Building was more recently let as mixed offices with a number of professional service firms.

The building is being redeveloped by city entrepreneur Anthony McCourt’s Gethar Ventures.

Mr McCourt said he was in advanced talks with a hotel group about taking the main part of the building, but wanted a focus on local independents elsewhere.

He said: “I have always thought it would be great to fly the independent flag, and it is great to start doing that with Urban.

“I genuinely believe in Simon. He is a skilled businessman, and if the New York Times loves Urban Coffee then that is good enough for me.”

He added: “I think that part of town has its best days ahead of it. If you look at the John Lewis entrance, the Metro plans, Paradise and the Mailbox then that area is going to be totally different.”

Gethar Ventures revealed earlier this month it was turning the George Henry Lee department store on Church Street in Liverpool’s city centre into a 105-bedroom apart-hotel under a proposed £15 million scheme.