Big task to re-energise Paradise Circus
Oct 20 2008 By Alun Thorne, Head of Business
The secret is finally out. Well it was actually inadvertently exposed by a Birmingham city council lawyer some months ago and, if we are being perfectly honest, it was the worst kept secret – if it ever actually was a secret – in the city’s commercial property sector.
The secret of course was developer Argent’s relationship with the city council regarding the future of Paradise Circus.
To coin an oft-used quote from Argent boss Gary Taylor, it is six acres of some of the most eligible development land outside of the capital.
Sitting as it does between the city’s Colmore quarter and the area to the west of the city centre that includes Brindleyplace and Edgbaston, Paradise Circus is not only a development opportunity of significant interest because of its geographical location but also because of what is there today.
As anybody with even a passing interest in the city will know, this is not your average city centre development site. As home to the Brutalist John Madin-designed Central Library, it is a site that comes with significant strings attached.
While much-maligned in many quarters, the building once famously described by our future king as a place where one might burn books also has its supporters and as such the Government is now considering a listing application.
Should it go through – and this may take a little while longer considering the fact that the minister responsible has recently been relieved of her dutues – then the council’s plans to work with Argent to create what they hope will be as successful an urban space as Brindleyplace will effectively be dead in the water.
If new Culture Minister Andy Burnham does side with the fans of the library then it will not just be a blow to the city council and Argent – which has has already invested £2m in Paradise Forum to pull it out of disrepair (hardly the actions of a developer operating under a veil of secrecy) – but to all those with a vested interest in the western side of the city centre.
Billions of pounds of commercial investment is planned along the Broad Street corridor in the coming years but one can only ponder the difficulties in attracting occupiers if the only route from the main train station is through two sets of sliding doors and a concrete carbunkle. Let’s just hope the decision, when it finally comes, is the right one for Birmingham.