In honour of its centenary, Birmingham Civic Society created the Haywood Award to celebrate people and projects that have played a significant role in Birmingham’s development. The combination of business, cultural and leisure facilities has long meant Brindleyplace is a key hub of the city centre but did you know that it helped set the blueprint for similar developments elsewhere? Rob Groves, Regional Director of Argent LLP tells us more. 

As the original developers of Brindleyplace, those of us on the Argent team have a unique insight into both the beginnings and on-going successes of this vital piece of Birmingham. Hines, current owner of Brindleyplace, has continued this investment-led approach. They recently spending £7 million on office building refurbishments that have helped attract new occupiers like WeWork and the Birmingham Organising Committee of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Brindleyplace is now one of Birmingham’s premier business addresses and is home to over 10,000 employees from companies like Deutsche Bank, Avison Young and Deloitte. Over 4.5 million visitors come to Brindleyplace every year, including almost a quarter of a million to annual festival events.

Escape the (capital) city

The fact the estate has become a template for other schemes across the UK is massive recognition for a project that was not only groundbreaking for Birmingham, but for city centre regeneration internationally. Newer sites that have picked up the gauntlet include Paradise in Birmingham, Spinningfields in Manchester and More London alongside Tower Bridge in London.

When the site was initially planned in the early 1990s large-scale, commercially-led, mixed-use city centre projects were not entirely new. But places like Brindleyplace had never made it out of capital cities before. But what made it so different back when it was a brownfield site fronting derelict canals and old warehouses in the Birmingham of the 1980s?

Firstly, Brindleyplace was a huge opportunity. Adjacent to the new ICC and National Indoor Arena, the site was also just off one of Birmingham’s main thoroughfares, Broad Street. As well as the old warehouses and workshops, the site also held a number of Victorian buildings that were worth keeping – namely the First Church of Christ, Scientist and the Oozells Street School. These were refurbished for new use while the Crescent Theatre was moved across the site to a brand new building of its own.

In the early 1990s, just like today, there was a need for new Grade A office space in the city centre away from the traditional office core around Colmore Row and the Queensway. And it was this factor that captured the commercial opportunity for 17 acres of former canalside warehousing.

Something for everyone

One of the key aspects of Brindleyplace, and the principle that has been so successfully copied elsewhere, was to not just create a new destination for office occupiers, but to create somewhere that revolved around leisure, cultural and residential use as well, including regular events in the new public squares and spaces. The leisure elements of the development, including the central square, were the first things to be built and ensured the public were attracted into Brindleyplace from the very start.

Brindleyplace as it looks today. Photo from Business Live.

It is a real neighbourhood, designed to appeal to all by providing a safe, secure environment where families are just as welcome as office workers and visitors to the National Sea Life Centre, Crescent Theatre and Ikon Gallery. Brindleyplace created a very safe environment at a time when the city was not awash with restaurants or leisure facilities in the way it is now.

Within this context, Brindleyplace became a byword for somewhere that was safe and secure – a key ingredient for attracting people into the city centre and making them feel that this was a place they could spend a half or even full day out.

It is a model that has been successfully copied not just in the UK, but across the world, and which has attracted dozens of awards over the past three decades. Crucially, the space and buildings created back in 1990 are just as viable and attractive today, ensuring that new generations will grow up knowing Brindleyplace in the same way.