Birmingham's historic Municipal Bank is to be put on the market by council bosses prompting calls for it to be used as a museum of finance, banking and industry.
The council plans to offer a long-lease on the former bank and has suggested that it would be suited to a ‘cultural facility’.
But there are concerns that it may be more likely to attract a pub, club or restaurant chain as occupier as many other old banks have done.
The iconic Broad Street building has been largely empty since Lloyds Bank moved out a decade ago. It was snapped up by the city council in 2006 to aid the still-awaited Arena Central development.
Occasionally it has been used as a film studio set or temporary art exhibition hall and will indeed be open again next month as part of the Town Hall and Symphony Hall’s season of science themed performances Universe of Sound. On Monday, April 22, the council’s Cabinet will rubber stamp the proposal for a long-term occupier to be sought.
Coun deputy leader Ian Ward believes that a museum, live music or theatre venue or art gallery would be ideally suited.
Coun Ward (Lab, Shard End) said: “Given its location on Centenary Square across the road from the new Library of Birmingham, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Symphony Hall and near to the Town Hall I would have thought it would be ideally suited to a cultural use.”
But the cabinet report does not rule out a pub or restaurant coming forward. No price tag has yet been put on the building.
Birmingham historian Carl Chinn believes that it would be ideally suited as a museum to finance and Birmingham’s historic role in the banking industry.
He points out that Birmingham industrialists John Taylor, a button maker and ironmonger Sampson Lloyd founded Taylor and Lloyds Bank, later Lloyds Bank, in Dale End during the mid-19th Century and Midland Bank also has its origins in Union Street.
He said: “Birmingham is known for its role in industry and manufacturing, but it was also pivotal in the development of finance and banking.
“The Municipal Bank, a bank for the citizens, was itself unique. Birmingham had a massive impact on banking and investment.”
He suggested that the finance industry and organisations such as the British Banking History Society could be approached.
Professor Chinn added: “It needs to be cultural use, not leisure. We do not need another nightclub or pub in there. An iconic building like this should be opened up to the public.
“Whatever goes there needs to be adventurous and imaginative.”
The immediate future for the Bank is as a venue for the Universe of Sound music and film installation from May 25 to June 16.
It involves an interactive recording of the Philharmonia Orchastra playing Holst’s The Planets which allows visitors to conduct the orchestra or accompany with virtual instruments, while learning about the different parts of the orchestra.
The exhibition was recently a crowd-pleaser at the Science Museum in London and will be accompanied by concerts and events at the Symphony Hall.
The Bank is among 22 pieces of council property set to be approved for ‘disposal’, both leasehold and freehold, at the Cabinet meeting this Monday.
Among others are three children’s homes at Billesely, Halesowen and Kingstanding, a stable block at Bleaks Hill in Kings Norton and various plots of land ripe for development.
It is part of the council’s ongoing review of its property assets which has seen dozens of buildings and land sold off.