Plans approved for Birmingham’s old John Lewis store to be transformed into offices & foodhall

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The proposed new 200,000 ft2 workspace at the former John Lewis store at Grand Central in Birmingham City Centre is expected to accommodate up to 2,000 people

Plans to transform John Lewis above New Street Station into a building shaped like a drum – with offices, hospitality and wellbeing venues – have been unanimously agreed today (March 16).

A Labour councillor has also criticised West Midlands Mayor Andy Street for his association with the short-lived department store. New retail venture the ‘Drum’ – named after the distinctive cylindrical shape of the building – will replace John Lewis which closed in 2020 after five years.

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The building is set to rise above Grand Central and its four floors will be home to offices, a gym, a food market, a restaurant and bar, a cycle hub and events space, all topped off with a roof garden and bar.

Planning documents show property developer Hammerson wants to retain much of the original retail structure and hopes to complete the work by 2025. Birmingham City Council’s planning committee met this morning to consider the application.

Councillor Lee Marsham (Labour, Nechells) took the opportunity to denounce ex-John Lewis boss Andy Street who recently revealed he is running for mayor again in 2024.

Three Labour candidates are challenging Mr Street: Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster, Victim’s Commissioner Nicky Brennan, and newcomer, ex-PwC partner, Richard Parker.

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Hammerson to transform former John Lewis store in Birmingham’s Grand Central (Photo - Hammerson)Hammerson to transform former John Lewis store in Birmingham’s Grand Central (Photo - Hammerson)
Hammerson to transform former John Lewis store in Birmingham’s Grand Central (Photo - Hammerson) | hammerson

What did the councillor say?

Cllr Marsham said: “The demise of the former John Lewis store is heavily associated with our failing Tory Mayor Andy Street and Hammersons are literally bailing Street out with the proposed Drum, which is an exciting, sustainable, multi use scheme, fit for the world we now live in with a wonderful nod to our heritage.”

The mayor was contacted but had no comment to add.

In a design and access statement, a representative for Hammerson said: “The proposed development seeks to repurpose what is currently an existing vacant, yet prominent building within the city centre and to bring it back into viable economic use as a high-quality and attractive building with ancillary uses which are considered in keeping with and complementary to the site’s surroundings, including New Street Station.

“Hammerson, as part of The Grand Central Ltd. Partnership, owns the site, which has remained vacant following the decision by John Lewis to permanently close the store during the height of the pandemic in 2020.“The site occupies a prominent position within the city, and there is a strong desire to see this building repurposed and bought back into active and viable use to positively contribute to the city’s economy and overall environment.

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