The proposed new home for The Birmingham Assay Office is located within the St. George’s development, fronting Icknield Street. This site will provide a prominent location for the new Birmingham Assay Office at a gateway to the Jewellery Quarter.
The site is bounded by Icknield Street, Pope Street, and Moreton Street, with its main frontage looking onto Icknield Street.
The development of the new Assay Office building will mark the first stage of the development of the wider 2.75 hectare St George’s development, which is to be developed for a wide mix of uses. The development of the Assay Office building will be the first new-build project on the site and will provide a significant boost to the regeneration of the remainder of the scheme.
“The move is all about securing our future for the next 100 years. The new building will enable us to work more cleanly and efficiently and grasp new opportunities more readily. This will be to the benefit of our staff, customers, and the Jewellery Quarter. Our new Assay Office will be a significant asset to Birmingham.” (Michael Allchin, Chief Executive and Assay Master of the Birmingham Assay Office Group).
The site is located within the Jewellery Quarter Conservation Area and its regeneration is seen as part of the vision for the Jewellery Quarter, as set out in the Big City Plan. The use of this derelict site to provide a commercial development which creates a new home for the Assay Office is a proposal which conforms with adopted planning policy for Birmingham.
The New Building
Project Gateway is a landmark building marking the Western ‘gateway’ to the Jewellery Quarter and St George’s masterplan. The proposed development has been designed to respond to its location at this key frontage in the Jewellery Quarter, and respect its siting within the Conservation Area.
The new building will be 2/3 storeys high, utilising the sloping nature of the site, and will extend to circa 5,380 sq m. The environmentally friendly design is proposed to be built to BREEAM ‘Very Good’ standard and includes prominent facades culminating in a double height colonnaded entrance that addresses the neighbouring Kettleworks opposite. The building’s elevations to Pope Street and Moreton Street maintain the rhythm, character, and civic presence of the principal Icknield Street entrance.
Use of high quality brickwork and detailing with full height glazing to all floors is proposed, which will maximise natural daylight and ventilation whilst recognising the sensitive nature of activities carried out within the building. A traditional ‘blue’ brick is proposed to reflect the heritage of the Conservation Area whilst differentiating the building from its immediate neighbours. Windows are set back, deep within the facade, in order to reduce solar gain and emphasise the buildings verticality.
The scheme will include an active mix of current Assay Office uses as well as providing substantial conference, training and cultural spaces that can exhibit current and historical material of Birmingham and the Jewellery Quarter, including a new home for the Assay Office’s Collection of silver and historic reference texts.
The scheme comprises on-site car parking within a secure yard area. Visitors to the Assay Office will use existing on street parking and the new St George’s parking facility, which is in close proximity to the new building, as well as having the ability to park on site by prior arrangement. A lay-by is proposed on Moreton Street to provide a drop off facility for customers adjacent to the trade entrance. Public access to the building will be from Icknield Street frontage.
All the existing facilities in the current Assay Office building, including the hallmarking operations, laboratories, gem certification and jewellery valuation services will be relocated to the new development, which will provide much improved and more efficient facilities to ensure Birmingham Assay Office has a sustainable future.
Upon completion of the new Assay Office facility, the existing premises and car park will be brought to market for disposal. Discussions are underway with the City Council and other stakeholders as to the most appropriate future uses for the premises, respecting its heritage and Listed status.
What Happens Next
- Submission of Planning Application to Birmingham City Council at end of September
- Consideration of application expected December 2012
- Development starts on site Summer 2013
- Open for business during 2014
- Invited feedback to –
“The Assay Office is our people, not our building. Our people are the best and we must give them the best. We are proud of our innovation, our integrity and our independence and we believe these will flourish even more successfully in an Assay Office fit for the future. We want to create a world class Centre of Excellence of which Birmingham can be proud. Our objective is that by 2014 we will be ready to face the next 100 years in a new building which is cleaner, greener, and more accessible to everyone, and which fully reflects our heritage, our status, and our ambition.” (Kay Alexander, Chairman of the Assay Office).