A historically significant early Victorian school located next to The Mailbox on Severn Street in Birmingham has been acquired by developers Trigram Properties and the Piper Group to create a £7 million predominantly residential development.
Previously known as the British School and later as the Birmingham Athletics Institute, the city council is selling the ornate purpose- built school in order to bring forward its regeneration and save the site from falling into a state of complete disrepair.
Working intensively with the council, the Trigram-Piper joint venture development partnership has landed planning consent to restore and redevelop the cluster of buildings - now called Scholars Gate - as high class apartments, alongside an adjacent new mixed-use building.
Bill Houle, director of Trigram Properties, said: " Having achieved planning consent for Scholars Gate in just 13 weeks, we have now commenced the 15-month restoration programme.
"We believe the fast-track approach to this site's rebirth could pave the way for similar dilapidated listed buildings in central Birmingham to be brought back to life."
Joint venture partner Denis Parkin of Piper Securities Holdings, added: "With its enviable location next to The Mailbox, Scholars Gate will provide a much-needed contrast to the multitude of contemporary apartment schemes being created throughout the city, as well as contribute six high quality apartments for affordable housing, which are vital to accommodate the growing key-worker population.
"The site itself dates back to 1809 and served as one of the UK's first non-denominational schools, whilst also pioneering a revolutionary movement by the Quakers to provide adult education from 1845.
"Having previously been threatened with demolition, we are proud to be able to rewrite Severn Street School into the history books by meticulously restoring the grand Italian Gothic facades to serve as character-rich new homes."
Designed by architects BBLB, three expansive, purpose-built Victorian school buildings dating from 1809 to 1860 will be converted to provide 22 apartments, while an original townhouse will be restored to its former glory to provide a single, special residence.
The original architects were pioneers of their time - Charles Edge who completed Birmingham Town Hall, the Chamberlain & Martin partnership and Yeoville Thomason, who designed the Council House.
The development partnership is optimistic that with such a history, the 23 new homes that will be created within the former school will command premium values when released onto the market next year. Next to the former Severn Street School, a disused car park will provide a further 15 apartments and three commercial units, which are likely to be utilised as high quality office space for small companies.
The new building will be known as Trinity House, due to its location on the corner of Severn Street, Blucher Street and Commercial Street.
Coun Ken Hardeman, Birmingham's cabinet member for regeneration, said: "The redevelopment programme to bring about the revival of this historic cluster of school buildings is significant in our quest to regenerate other challenging sites in the city.
"Trigram Properties and Piper Securities Holdings have proved that it is commercially viable to invest in the restoration of historic buildings and their plans for the Scholars Gate scheme look set to provide high quality housing in one of central Birmingham's most prestigious locations."
The joint venture development partnership is preparing to launch the nine apartments earmarked for private sale at Trinity House this autumn. They are due to be completed by autumn next year. There will also be a further six apartments allocated for affordable housing.
However, the 23 converted homes at Scholars Gate are not scheduled to be released for sale until January 2006, to coincide with the unveiling of a designer showhome, with occupation expected in autumn next year
The selling agent for the scheme - Knight Frank - is already collecting data from interested parties who want to be first in the queue to receive sales information.