A key figure in the “second wave” of Birmingham’s recent urban renaissance has been tasked with making Millennium Point one of the most exciting venues in the city.
Philip Singleton, who built his reputation for the city as it developed its Big City Plan, has been appointed as the new chief executive of the building whose tenants include Thinktank, Birmingham City University, Metropolitan College and the digital cinema that was formally the Imax.
While more than 4,000 people use the development every day and up to a million people visit every year, Mr Singleton believes that Millennium Point offers an as yet untapped opportunity.
“We need to turn up the volume of the brand but the brand is only ever as good as the content,” he said.
“For instance, if you take the big screen, it is doing well but we could do more. If the food and drink offer was more interesting then people could come and park up at 6pm and eat and then watch a film and stay for four or five hours rather than 90 minutes. The detail is still to be worked up but we have the idea.
“Also we should think about the height that we have in the atrium – it’s not quite the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern but is the biggest of its kind in the city.
"We can do things in the space that isn’t competing with places like the NEC or the more pure arts like the Ikon but we have a unique space to fill a gap in the Birmingham market.
‘‘I will be talking to people in London and internationally to bring things here that will be new and exciting that will very much fit with Millennium Point’s original charitable aims.”
Mr Singleton has enjoyed a successful career around design and development having trained as an architect and worked for himself and others before joining Birmingham City Council where he was a city design advisor before becoming assistant director for city centre development and design, working alongside Clive Dutton.
During that time Mr Singleton was involved in key projects such as Eastside and the Big City Plan during a period when major schemes like the Cube passed through planning.
He subsequently followed Mr Dutton down to London where he was director of major sites in Newham, responsible for post-Olympic masterplans for Stratford and the Royal Docks – “roles that taught me from the inside about senior management, governance and political relationships – an extremely rich experience,” said Mr Singleton.
On his return to Birmingham Mr Singleton launched a development consultancy Facilitate Urban where he worked with major players such as Lend Lease which has been delivering new schools across the city as part of the old Building Schools for the Future project.
However, Mr Singleton said he had been looking for this kind of role ever since leaving Newham and that his close association with Eastside made the proposition particularly attractive.
He said: “The Eastside context is really interesting. I was responsible for Eastside during my time at the council and I felt I knew every kerbstone but if you stood and looked around 10 years ago it had no friends or neighbours.
Now we have the new academy, a fabulous multi-story car park, the new BCU campus, the science garden, the new park at the turn of the year.
There is also the route up to the campus at Aston University and our wider neighbours at Birmingham Science Park, Aston which very much ties in with us as a science and technology building.”
He added that HS2 also presented a massive opportunity for Millennium Point, particularly if proposals for Curzon Square come to fruition that would see a new museum of contemporary art – Ikon 2 – developed next to the proposed new international station.
He said: “We will be the nearest public building next to the terminus and without treading on any toes we will be making sure we are as visible as possible and we have ideas about that. HS2 is what will put some fire into Eastside and we will take warmth from that as well as adding to the fire.”
Alongside Mr Singleton’s appointment, the Millennium Point Trust has also appointed Helen Magnani – the current property director – as deputy chief executive.
Speaking of the new appointments, Sir Bernard Zissman, chairman of Millennium Point Trust said: “Millennium Point is about to enter a new era.
"Now in its eleventh year, the complex has been an amazing success and one of the most successful of the national landmark Millennium projects.
"The appointment of Philip Singleton brings to the Trust experience and vision, which has been demonstrated in the regeneration of Birmingham and particularly the Eastside area.
"Millennium Point will continue to play a part as a foundation project of Eastside, hosting the new Science Garden now under development as part of the wider City Park.
"The Trust looks forward to a period of growth led by our new team of Philip Singleton and Helen Magnani.
"The importance of this role – not just the economic situation – generated 96 applications from across the country and beyond.”