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Council approves plans to transform former John Lewis Birmingham flagship

Tom Shearsmith
17 March 2023

Hammerson has been granted planning consent to bring to life ‘Drum’, the repurposing of the former John Lewis flagship store at Grand Central.

The plans will see the space transformed into 200,000 sq ft of modern wellbeing-designed offices.

This consent represents the next step in Hammerson’s vision to enhance its Birmingham Estate and create what it describes as a "truly multi-use destination" by leveraging the strength of Bullring & Grand Central to further capitalise and drive value for stakeholders, the local economy and the city as a whole.

Drum reimagines the former retail space creating a new paradigm of city centre workplace. Incorporating the best levels of amenity and connectivity, all complementing the existing food and social hub in Grand Central and the retail and entertainment brands Bullring has to offer.

After closing along with most UK retail stores at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Birmingham shoppers were then dealt a blow that July, with John Lewis confirming that the Birmingham site would not be reopening after lockdown.

It was one of eight locations that John Lewis said it had to close permanently to "secure its long term future." John Lewis “failed to make the most” of its central Birmingham store, according to the West Midlands’ mayor.

John Lewis Birmingham former closed store

Former John Lewis building. Photo: 2015 by Bs0u10e01.

Planning consent enables Hammerson to continue the process of working with other stakeholders and begin marketing with the aim of commencing the development. Industries with strong clusters in the West Midlands include technology, gaming, financial and professional services, transport, education and medtech, and all are targets for the space at Drum given its versatility and connectivity.

A key design feature by Make Architects is the extension of the existing atrium through all four floors of the building to create a sweeping, open, communal entrance that widens as it rises, providing visual connectivity between the floors and drawing daylight down through the heart of the space. It will also lead to a newly created rooftop garden lounge.

Drum’s ground floor will be repurposed to deliver a amenity offer that supports tenants and enhances the experience for workers and visitors. The 40,000 sq ft space will add to the existing food and hospitality offer in Grand Central, featuring a combined hospitality space with restaurant, bar and food market.

Harry Badham, Chief Development and Asset Repositioning Officer at Hammerson, said: “We welcome Birmingham City Council’s approval of our plans, with the decision a significant boost to Birmingham’s reputation as a city for business, one that is progressive, dynamic and setting the benchmark for others to follow across the UK. Drum is a great demonstration of how Hammerson’s creativity and a deep understanding of occupier needs can create assets that thrive by diversifying their purpose to accommodate an even greater range of uses and users.”

In a statement, a Hammerson representative added: "The proposed development seeks to repurpose what is currently an existing vacant 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."

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