Work on Birmingham city centre’s new £100 million John Lewis store is set to begin within the next three months.
Construction will get underway by spring and will see builders creating a mammoth 155,000 sq ft store, which will be the largest John Lewis shop outside of London.
It is estimated it will take more than two years to construct the store, which is to be built over four floors. It is expected to open its doors to shoppers in autumn 2014, creating 650 jobs to staff the shop.
The store will dominate The Pallasades shopping centre, which itself is undergoing major renovations as part of the £600 million redevelopment of New Street train station, dubbed the Gateway project.
The John Lewis store will be built by some of the 1,000 construction workers who are currently on site to carry out the whole project, expected to be fully completed by the end of 2015.
Jonathan Cheetham, general manager of The Pallasades, said: “The work going on behind the scenes at the centre is truly exciting and is laying the groundwork for what will be a true jewel in Birmingham’s retail crown.
“When all the work is complete, we will be able to deliver a shopping centre that excites and satisfies shoppers in Birmingham – both local citizens and visitors to our city.”
However, he admitted the centre’s reconfiguration was having a knock-on effect on business as more than half of the site has had to be sealed off for construction work, seeing dozens of shops either closing down or relocating to other areas of the city.
Amongst those to have closed is Argos, which went to the High Court last year in an attempt to foil John Lewis’s bid to build the store. The former Argos store will now be flattened to make way for the New Street development. Mr Cheetham said The Pallasades would “change beyond recognition”, and would feature 400,000 sq ft of retail space to house more than 50 shops, restaurants and cafes.
Keystone Retail Property, the firm which manages Bluewater in Kent and Touchwood in Solihull, has been employed to seek traders to lease the retail space, which is expected to create 350 jobs.
At the heart of the development will be a giant 3,300 sq metre atrium, which will be as high as eight double decker buses, and has been designed to flood both The Pallasades and New Street station with light.
The transformed train station will see rail passengers benefiting from more accessible and clearer platforms, reached by 26 escalators and 14 lifts, a stunning new facade and eight entrances.
Nearby Stephenson Tower will be demolished to create a new plaza and there will be stands for 52 bikes.
Cars will access the station via Hill Street, while the taxi rank will be in Smallbrook Queensway.
Network Rail has pledged that during the work it will be business as usual with little impact on the 140,000 passengers who use New Street every day.