Plans for a development of new offices in Birmingham are set to undergo a change of direction after developers said they would now look to build up to 1,000 apartments.
Proposals for four new office buildings, collectively called ‘Axis Square’, were first unveiled in 2016 to be built on land next to the Mailbox currently occupied by The Axis building and a car park.
LCR, the government-owned developer leading the project, has now announced it is working with Birmingham City Council on adding a residential element to the scheme.
It has also appointed property agency Savills to market the four-acre site in Holliday Street for disposal.
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BusinessLive asked LCR why it had chosen to go in a new direction and what would happen to the plans for the office blocks but it did not reveal many details.
In a statement, it said: “Due to covid-19 and changing market conditions in Birmingham, LCR has looked to gain a level of planning certainty from Birmingham City Council on both a commercial-led and residential-led scheme.
“This gives a prospective purchaser the flexibility to consider either scenario or indeed a mixed-use proposal for which there would need to be future consultation.”
The proposed changes mirror those seen at the £700 million Paradise scheme in Chamberlain Square when the project team announced in 2020 that it was adding a first residential element to the office-led project, the now-consented 49-storey Octagon apartment tower overlooking Summer Row.
The 1970s Axis building was occupied for many years by engineering and planning consultancy Atkins but it announced in September that it had agreed a deal to move its 850 staff to the new Two Chamberlain Square building at Paradise.
LCR has secured the rights to vacant possession of The Axis in order to carry out demolition works starting in April and Savills is now inviting offers for the freehold interest on an unconditional basis.
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LCR’s regional director Ray Willis added: “This site coming to market signals a major milestone for one of the city’s most exciting projects.
“Once complete, Axis will support Birmingham City Council’s strategic ambitions and make progress towards its ‘Our Future City Plan’.
“We’re committed to enabling the redevelopment of Axis Square which will deliver public value for years to come.”
Our Future City Plan was unveiled by Birmingham City Council last January as an update to its much-lauded Big City Plan in 2010 and outlines its vision for the city up to 2040 including increased investment in new homes, public infrastructure and commercial space.
LCR, also known as London and Continental Railways, is wholly owned by the Department for Transport and works in fields such as land assembly, placemaking, commercial development and asset management.
Its previous projects include the redevelopment of St Pancras International and King’s Cross stations in London.
The Axis Square application site was used as a railway depot in the 1920s by the British Railways Board Residuary.
Michael Maguire, Savills’ associate director for mixed-use development, added: “The site represents a significant opportunity to create an exemplar development of scale in a prime city centre location, with the benefit of two detailed planning consents for One and Four Axis Square and positive pre-application advice for a residential-led development.
“We have been working with LCR, and in conjunction with Birmingham City Council, for some time to prepare the site for market and we look forward to securing a new custodian to deliver a comprehensive development.”