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Arena Central phase one gets go-ahead after 17 years on the drawing board

Arena Central phase one gets go-ahead after 17 years on the drawing board

🕔07.Aug 2014

Planning permission for the first phase of Birmingham’s Arena Central development has been approved, 17 years after the city council first envisaged developing the landmark site off Broad Street that was once home to the ATV/Central television studios.

The planning committee gave the go ahead for a mixed-use office and retail scheme which will consist of two seven and eight storey buildings with a curved façade and chequerboard motif as well as a public park.

The first phase, on land facing the new Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square, is a small part of the far larger £400 million Arena Central project masterminded by Arena Central Developments, a joint venture between Miller Developments and Bridgehouse Capital.

It was confirmed that the first phase will be a speculative development and built un-let.

At nine acres, it’s the largest city centre redevelopment site after Paradise Circus.

It has planning permission for 2.3 million sq ft of mixed-use space, including 860,000 sq ft of grade A office accommodation, over 200,000 sq ft of residential units, 2,500 car parking spaces and more than 1.2 million sq ft of retail and leisure units.

Planning permission was first sought for Arena Central in 1997, and approval granted in 2000 by the Secretary of State for a 175-metre tower which at that stage would have been one of the tallest outside of London.

The tower was re-named the V Building and the height increased to 50 storeys and 245 metres. There was to have been a skyline restaurant and bar as well as luxury flats and apartments.

But the plan did not excite the then deputy prime minister, John Prescott. He ordered the tower to be reduced to 187 metres.

Today’s application is the 15th since 1997 in a process that saw Arena Central threatened by a combination of unpredicatble events.

The 9/11 Twin Towers terrorist outrage in America in 2001 destroyed overnight the market for very tall residential tower blocks, while the ensuing global economic crisis and credit crunch put all regeneration projects on the back burner for several years.

City planning officer Nicholas Jackson was in no doubt about the importance of the first phase of Arena Central : “The proposed office building would provide high quality, robust architecture as part of the first phase of the Arena Central development setting a suitable benchmark for the development as a whole.

“The use of neutral materials is consistent with its immediate neighbours and would help frame Centenary Square. The curved and recessed entrance feature marks the access into the building in an effective and striking manner and will lead people into and through Arena Central.

“The provision of a high quality public realm that is consistent with the tramway proposals and is part of a wider scheme is also welcomed.”

Conservative planning spokesman Cllr Peter Douglas Osborn said phase one of Arena Central would encourage the further development of the site. “I hope the tower will still be built,” he added.

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