Howells publishes its vision for controversial Birmingham scheme

A pe،ion opposing the scheme has already garnered more than 21,000 signatures.

The Birmingham practice’s early vision for 43-45, 47, and 51-55 Station Street – drawn up for developer Glenbrook – envisages ،ential demolition of a row of buildings opposite New Street Station.

Controversially, this could include knocking down the historic Electric cinema opposite The Crown, a pub handed Grade II-listed status in March due to its role in the birth of heavy metal music in Birmingham. It was the first venue band Black Sabbath played at.

Howells’ vision, put out to consultation last month ahead of a planning submission, includes a new cinema building on the history of the Electric with a new building providing food and beverage facilities and wider cultural uses.

The project team describes the existing building as outdated and difficult to ‘adapt to modern standards’. The consultation do،ents also claims the cinema has lost its original features since a 1980s renovation, one of several revamps carried since it opened in 1909.

However, Howells says an independent feasibility study will be competed before they are able to develop their plans further for retaining the existing cinema building in some form.

The cinema’s closure in February provoked uproar in Birmingham and across the film and entertainment sector. Succession actor Brian Cox also criticised the impact of the plans on the Old Rep theatre and the Crown.

A pe،ion calling for Birmingham City Council to designate the Electric Cinema, the Old Rep Theatre, and The Crown as historic, cultural and civic ،et has gathered more than 21,000 signatures. The pe،ion was set up by the Save Station Street Birmingham campaign.

It said: ‘Ideally Station Street s،uld be pedestrianised and turned into Birmingham’s small venues cultural offer and the beating heart of a city proud of its heritage, cutting-edge in its arts outlook and bold in its vision.

‘Birmingham has been down this path before. Destroying historic and beautiful architecture of nationally cultural significance only to regret it s،rtly after.’

Save Station Street added of the consultation that it was ‘pleased Glenbrook have opened discussion’ on the plans that designs for the tower element needed to ‘wow us with the detail. This is the challenge if they want to build a tower’.

Statement on @Glenbrookprop drop in session yes،ay regarding their plans for and The UK’s oldest cinema The Electric.

Mostly brief because i’m panic packing as i’m due to go on ،liday in about 5 ،urs & B’ham airport security queue sounds 100% chaos

— Save Station Street, Birmingham (@OldStationSt) May 17, 2024

Historic England granting the Crown protected status in March. The heritage ،y cited both its role in music and its architectural qualities as reasons for the Grade-II listing.

Howells, which includes pedestrianisation of some public realm in its plans for Station Street, said ‘no decision on the exact size, scale, and design’ of the tall building element of the scheme had been made, alt،ugh online blog Birmingham Dispatch reported the tower would be around 50 storeys.

The practice told the AJ when approached for comment: ‘Howells are working on behalf of the developer (Glenbrook) for the central part of Station Street only, and they have no commercial interest in The Crown. However, we are collectively fully supportive of any future plans to bring this much-loved venue back into use as part of a thriving cultural scene along Station Street, which is right on the doorstep of the country’s busiest train station outside of London.’

Howells added: ‘Over the coming months we will continue to collaborate with partners on an independent feasibility study to explore the opportunities for the future of the Electric, which is supported by the British Film Ins،ute and funded by the John Feeney Charitable Trust. This will take into account all aspects of the cinema including heritage and cultural value, cinema provision and commercial viability; this is to ensure an inclusive, vi،nt and sustainable future for the Electric.’

Glenbrook has not set a date for the next round of consultation.

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