Birmingham has seen a number of substantial development schemes in recent years, with each new scheme seemingly more ambitious than the last. Just as it seems something of a development peak must have been reached in the city, yet another major scheme, Birmingham Smithfield, now looks likely to commence within the next couple of years. We will look at what is being planned here.
The origins of Smithfield date back to Birmingham’s Big City Plan of 2010. This plan envisaged developing Birmingham city centre as a world class city centre with new districts offering new commercial and residential space that would attract new employment. A more detailed vision for Smithfield was first outlined in the Birmingham Smithfield Visioning Document in 2015. The Big City Plan is currently being superseded by the next masterplan for Birmingham’s future, the Our Future City Plan, of which Smithfield is likely to be a key element.
Birmingham Smithfield occupies around 17ha and has an estimated GDV of around £1.9bn. It is being described, as many such schemes are, as one of the largest development sites in the country and as a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ for Birmingham.
The scheme occupies a highly strategic location just to the south of the current city centre core. To the north is the Bullring shopping centre, the Bull Ring Indoor Market and Birmingham New Street railway station. To the west is the Southside area, a district known for its bars, restaurants and theatre. To the east is Digbeth, a fashionable inner city district, which has developed as a creative quarter in recent years. Beyond this is the city’s relatively new Eastside knowledge hub and the site for development around the future HS2 station at Curzon Street.
The site was previously occupied by the city’s wholesale markets, which moved to a new location in 2017 and much of the site has already been cleared. The surrounding area is currently occupied mainly by commercial and light industrial uses. There are already a number of plans and proposals for development schemes in the surrounding area particularly towards Digbeth. These include the Rea Valley Urban Quarter, a planned large residential and commercial district.