Dear Editor, The Arena Central site was the premium potential development site in Birmingham. To a place that, arguably is no longer seen as the UK’s Second City, this was a once in 50-year chance to make a statement to the contrary.
A few years back we were shown architect’s pictures of the V Building, a project worthy of Birmingham in its assertive days. It replaced another plan for the same site that would have seen the highest building in the UK, which was abandoned in the wake of 9/11. The V Building plans stuttered to a halt as a result of the 2008 downturn. Now what are we likely to get?
A modest square with a Holiday Inn Express, low rise, low interest, zero excitement factor, the sort of place, that if you found it in Milton Keynes, you would not even turn to look at. But it will please the council and the planners, it will please most of the people of this once great city, because all of them have lost their vision for the outstanding, for the audacious, for the bold. Similarly, there was outrage against the Fire Station 30-story tower, but with seven of them lopped off, it is now acceptable.
Dear Editor, Could it be the reason plans for a tower block housing student accommodation on the site of the former Central Fire Station keep being revised is that the site is inappropriate for such a proposal?
I feel the developers are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, or indeed a modern rectangular structure into a triangular ensemble of special architectural and historical interest.
It’s a pity Aston University failed in its bid to buy the building, as it would have made a landmark addition to the campus.
Features such as the portland stone tower and archway could deliver a magnificent gateway to the university, and the grand meeting room and internal drill yard could find exciting new uses as venues for academic and ceremonial events.
If student accommodation is indeed needed there are sites on New Town Row and in the Gun Quarter that could sustain such modern developments and help to breathe additional life into the area.
Sheldon Bayley, By email