The biggest transformation of a leafy Birmingham suburb in a generation has been unveiled with plans to create an urban village that could rival the city centre shopping area.
‘The Village’ in Edgbaston is an ambitious blueprint to create what has been described by Calthorpe Estates – which owns a large part of the suburb – as “a vibrant and high quality retail and leisure destination”.
At the heart of the grand vision is a plan to develop Greenfield Crescent between Calthorpe Road and Harborne Road as a village centre.
The plan will look to target office workers, residents, students and visitors – groups whose needs are not currently being met in the area, say Calthorpe.
Greenfield Crescent itself would be redesigned as a new public space with landscaping and green spaces and feature shops and leisure facilities.
One of the driving forces behind the scheme is a desire to capitalise on Edgbaston’s existing assets.
In a document outlining its plans, Calthorpe said: “A number of key attractions, such as The Botanical Gardens, Edgbaston Stadium, Simpsons restaurant and Edgbaston Priory Club, have put Edgbaston truly on the international map.
“Through investment and redevelopment of public spaces and properties, our vision will see the area evolve into a prime leisure destination.”
Calthorpe highlighted opportunities for specialist food shops, restaurants, bars, cafes, coffee shops, sandwich shops, beauty clinics and fitness facilities. It is also aiming to attract hotel operators and residential developers.
Although the full plans are still subject to detailed discussions with Birmingham City Council, Calthorpe says a number of cafes and restaurants will open in the area over the next 12 months, and said it is in discussions with other leisure companies which are keen to be a part of The Village.
The scheme will complement developments that have already taken place, including the nearby Morrisons supermarket which opened at Five Ways in 2012 and the Anytime Fitness Gym, which opened in March this year.
Others in the pipeline include Highfield Townhouse, a new restaurant and bar from Midlands-based Peach Pub Company in Highfield Road, due to open in spring 2014, and The Edgbaston Cocktail Lounge & Hotel, a spin-off of Warwickshire cocktail lounge and boutique hotel The Kenilworth, set to open in Highfield Road next year.
Also planned for next year is the Sovereign House bar and restaurant in Calthorpe Road, and a ‘drive-through’ coffee shop in a Grade-II listed building in Calthorpe Road, for which a planning application has been submitted.
Ralph Minott, director of development at Calthorpe Estates said: “It is very much a vision of ours, a vision that represents a key part of Edgbaston, similar to the journey with Pebble Mill.
“We are taking it forward with the city council and are hopeful we can get there within the next 12 months.”
The plans, which Mr Minott said had been the subject of discussion with the council for a number of years, are seen as vital to giving Edgbaston a much-needed heart.
He added: “At the moment Edgbaston has not got what we would describe as a defined centre and we feel somewhere like Edgbaston should have a centre with key amenities.
“At one time it had Edgbaston shopping centre and that was the centre of the amenities, but that has now been gone since 2008.”
Although Calthorpe, which manages a 610-hectare estate in the suburb and has been family-owned since 1717, says it has been patient in creating the plans, it is hoped they will move forward early next year.
Mark Lee, Calthorpe’s chief executive, said: “The vision is already in place and everything we are already doing in the area is working towards that vision. We have created an environment and it is starting already.
“There isn’t a defined time, you have to give it as long as it takes for consultation, but we are hoping that around about the end of this year we will be at the consultation stage with the public and that the whole thing will be signed off early in 2014.”
Mr Lee added that the scheme could not be rushed given the complexities involved in converting some period buildings, and also that the figures had to add up.
He said: “This is a huge investment from Calthorpe Estates and we have to be quite sure that is viable.
“We are prudent people, prudent investors and have to ask is this viable for the long term? We don’t just do things for the short term but this centre to the village is fundamental to developing the whole commercial area.”
Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart welcomed the development.
She said: “Calthorpe knows that for an area to be economically successful, safe and attractive you have to bring about a healthy combination of residential living, shops and restaurants as well as offices and businesses.
“I have always respected them for their focus on combining good quality of life with a welcoming business environment.”
She added: “Birmingham is fortunate that many of the city’s decision makers also live in the city, and Calthorpe can take some credit for that.
“The Village vision is right for the area and I welcome the long term investment and planning it is prepared to put into the project to bring it to fruition.”