Businesses and residents in Birmingham’s Irish Quarter are desperately hoping funding will be found to convert a derelict patch of Digbeth into a £150 million apartment and hotel complex.
Last week the Birmingham Post revealed that Connaught Square, a subsidiary of Irish developer Naus Group, had collapsed into administration after its bank funding dried up.
The land opposite the newly revamped coach station was supposed to become a mixed-use site with 658 new apartments, a four-star hotel with sky bar and a new Irish Centre, shops, restaurants and a spa.
Administrator Begbies Traynor is now in charge of the site, and has said it would be looking to see whether there is any interest in the scheme from other developers.
Meanwhile, the chief executive of Naus Group Ronan Mellett has said he believed part of the scheme, comprising the hotel and 128 apartments, was still fundable in the current climate.
Pat O’Neill, chairman of the Irish Quarter Partnership which brings the local community together with the city council and developers, said the scheme was key to regenerating the Irish Quarter as well as the wider Birmingham area.
He said he was “hoping beyond hope” that funding for the development would be found.
“It’s been lying derelict for a number of years now and I have been involved in this since 1996,” he said. “It’s sad for me personally, for the community and for everybody in Birmingham as it’s another part in the jigsaw of the regeneration of the city.
“We have got a brand new coach station, a new college and the Custard Factory is progressing day by day, so the disappointment is felt by everybody.
“We are hoping beyond hope that somebody will come out to help to get together the plans.”
Staff at the Irish Centre said they were also disappointed they would not be getting a new building.
Queenie Mulvey, the centre’s receptionist, said: “It’s terrible that it’s come to nothing after all we were expecting.
“We were expecting a new Irish Centre and we were expecting a new underground car park and that’s not going to happen now.
“The ground that’s empty there – we could use that as a car park but I don’t suppose we would be allowed to take it,” she said.
The initial plans for Connaught Square were given the green light in 2007, and would have represented a major transformation of the run-down part of Digbeth.
As well as flats and a hotel, the scheme had plans for a pedestrian boulevard providing access to two new public squares.
It was widely celebrated for its promise to bring Birmingham’s “hidden river” – the River Rea – back up to surface level in Digbeth. Around 800 jobs were expected to be created by the scheme.