An eyesore site in Birmingham city centre is to be transformed in a multi-million pound offices and hotel scheme.
Council bosses are close to concluding a deal to redevelop two acres of Great Charles Street, currently used as a car park.
The move resurrects ambitious proposals for a surface-level pedestrian crossing linking the Colmore Business District and the Jewellery Quarter.
Council leaders signalled this week that removal of the “awful” walkway bridge, which is the only method of crossing the A38 as it thunders through the centre of Birmingham, would be a priority issue for the Great Charles Street scheme.
Talks have been on and off with developers Abstract Land and Dandara since the two partners offered to buy the valuable site in 2006.
The credit crunch and economic turndown put paid to a swift resolution, but the land will now be developed in four phases over eight years.
Council cabinet members agreed in principle to a scheme that is expected to deliver offices, shops, a hotel and multi-storey car park.
The cabinet was told that more than 2,500 jobs could be created when all building work has been completed.
The land has a tortured history over many years and was once earmarked for Birmingham’s new coach station. That idea fell through after National Express deemed the project too expensive and decided to rebuild the coach station in Digbeth.
A deal to sell the Great Charles Street site to HGB Properties for about £23 million collapsed in the summer of 2006, but the council announced shortly afterwards that Abstract Land and Dandara were to acquire the land.
Council leader Mike Whitby said he hoped new government methods allowing local authorities to pay for infrastructure projects through tax incremental funding schemes and revenue from business rates, could be used to meet the huge cost of joining up the two Queensway tunnels.
Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) added that better connectivity between Colmore Row and the Jewellery Quarter would help to stimulate business activity.
Cabinet member Martin Mullaney highlighted the prospect of a new walkway joining “Birmingham’s two great churches” of St Philip’s in Colmore Row and St Paul’s in the Jewellery Quarter.
Deputy council leader Paul Tilsley said that anyone using the “awful bridge” crossing Great Charles Street was “taking their life in their hands”.
Coun Tilsley (Lib Dem Sheldon) added: “There has to be a long term strategy to join up Church Street and Ludgate Hill. This is a vision we have to cling on to and hold dear because it would do an enormous amount for the Jewellery Quarter as a business and tourism destination.”
Cabinet member for regeneration, Tim Huxtable, said the two developers were keen to work with the council on a connectivity strategy.
Coun Huxtable (Con Bournville) added: “This is a strategically important site which is in the Jewellery Quarter conservation area. Any development will be handled in a sensitive manner.”
Although the council will receive a significant capital sum when it sells the site, it will lose almost £300,000 a year when the existing surface-level car park is closed to allow development to take place. A new multi-storey car park, to be built in the first phase of development, will be privately owned.
Coun Huxtable said he was having “meaningful discussions” with cabinet colleagues about ways of addressing an £850,000 shortfall in income from council car parks across Birmingham since the beginning of the financial year.
The latest budget forecasts before the cabinet warn that parking income may fall further as economic difficulties begin to bite.