The £600 million redevelopment of New Street Station has been given a major boost two years before it opens after a raft of international retailers signed up.
Already 80 per cent of floor space at the Grand Central shopping centre above the regenerated station has been taken, with Vietnamese, Japanese and Italian restaurants among those signing up.
Up to 1,000 jobs will be created as retailers, including luxury goods retailer The White Company and beauty and body care shops L’Occitane and Kiehls open at the centre.
However, the new centre will not open before Christmas 2014 – which was branded “disappointing” by the boss of anchor store John Lewis.
The new centre, which will bring 40 stores and 20 restaurants, will now be open to the public at the same time as the station in 2015.
Experts say the expansion of the city centre’s retail scene – which will coincide with £50 million improvements to the Mailbox – will offer the best opportunity to improve international tourism in the city since the opening of the Bullring.
Neil Rami, chief executive of inward investment body Marketing Birmingham, said with retail spend accounting for almost two-thirds of income from tourists it was a major boost.
He said: “With more wealthy tourists from markets such as India and China expected to visit the UK for its shopping, securing prestigious brands for Grand Central will retain Birmingham’s reputation as one of the best retail destinations in the UK – and help to boost spending in the local economy.
“The growth of Birmingham’s high-end retail offer will be crucial to attracting more visitors to the city. Nearly 70 per cent of UK and international consumers coming to Birmingham already rank shopping as one of their favourite activities here, and this accounts for 60 per cent of all expenditure in the city’s visitor economy.”
However, the delayed opening date has not been universally welcomed.
John Lewis, the major department store currently under construction, was initially due to open in autumn next year ready for the festive shopping season, but that date has been put back – which disappointed managing director Andy Street.
Mr Street, who is also chairman of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), said: “We understand and support the decision. It is disappointing that potential shoppers will have to wait a little longer, but we are determined to work with colleagues on ensuring this is the best opening possible.”
It is understood there were concerns about opening some parts of the centre while much of the station below remained a building site.
The exact date will be set early in 2014 when the final stages of £600 million construction project starts to take shape.
The new restaurants lining up for the centre include Spanish, Vietnamese, Japanese and Italian outlets which outlets overlook the busy station concourse under a giant glass atrium.
The 28-year-old Spanish chef Omar Allibhoy, winner of the Acorn’s hospitality 2012 young star of the future award, is set to launch his Tapas Revolution restaurant, while Vietnamese restaurant Pho, plans to bring street-style cuisine. It is Pho’s first foray outside London and the South East.
They are joined by Italian Caffe Concerto, Mexican Tortilla, Crepe Affaire, Yo! Sushi!, Carluccios, Fuel Juice Bar and Giraffe.
Keith Stone, leasing director for Grand Central, said: “We’re delighted to be bringing so many exciting new restaurants and cafes to Birmingham, along with the first stand-alone store in the city for The White Company, which will enable them to showcase a more comprehensive product range to West Midlands customers than has previously been possible.”
Network Rail project director Chris Montgomery said the redevelopment would bring many visitors to the city “for the first time in many years”.
He added: “We want to deliver an experience that surpasses all their expectations.
“Having reviewed how the centre and the station will work alongside each other, we’re confident that a more aligned opening in 2015 will allow customers to experience the full impact of the stunning open atrium design from day one.”
Jonathan Cheetham, chair of Retail Birmingham, added: “The news that further high-end stores are committed to investing and trading in Birmingham is testament to the reputation of the city as one of the UK’s premier retail destinations. It also demonstrates confidence in the quality of the future developments and improved transport infrastructure coming in 2015.”
Birmingham Business-park based Cannock Developments has also been appointed to refurbish the 1960s built Ladywood House office block above the station, which will be renamed One Grand Central.
Chris Webster, director of GBSLEP, said: “The Grand Central development is the latest stage in the development of Birmingham’s retail offer and for it to be so advanced at such an early stage is another sign of the confidence of businesses to invest in the city.
“The Bullring has proven a huge draw for Birmingham and this enhances this offer even further for visitors.”
Area: Birmingham city centre
Developer: Network Rail, Birmingham City Council
Investment: £600 million
Retail jobs: 1,000
- This article is part of the Birmingham Skyline 2014 supplement produced by the Birmingham Post