Update on Birmingham Building Projects

eMag logo 100x75Now that the Christmas celebrations and city razzmatazz has subsided I’ve been out with my camera recording what’s changed and what’s new.

Yes, all of the festive sites are gone but there are some benefits of this. We can now see and hence appreciate the character and outstanding architecture of our city – and some for the first time! It’s also less busy and we can cross Paradise Forum, Chamberlain and Victoria Squares without the overpopulated scrum!

Meanwhile work has continued on the major developments in the city, unseen by many in the euphoric takeover of Christmas!

(If you haven’t seen my galleries before, click here to find out how to get the best out of the photos.)

First off is Centenary Square. Not seen in its uncluttered entirety since 2009 and now bereft of the historical  photo stands as well as the Ice Rink and Big Wheel. See below for what we now have……fantastic!!

Next the new Metro line. At last the track is being laid!

The 1.2km (0.7 mile) scheme is due to be completed in 2015. The extension is being part-funded by £75.4m from the Department for Transport, which gave its backing in February 2012. The line will be extended from Snow Hill railway station to New Street station.

The route is along Bull Street, Corporation Street and Stephenson Street where the new entrance is. These will be the first trams running on roads in the city centre since 1953.

The current track laying extends from the southern end of No1 Snowhill (new building opposite the south side of the rail station) along most of Bull Street.

Here are some new views of Bull Street.

The new John Lewis superstore, is to front on the south side the totally revamped New Street Station and the new shopping centre above the tracks to be called Grand Central.

The whole development was supposed to open in time for Christmas 2014 but has had to be put back until some time in 2015 – neither Network Rail nor John Lewis have committed to a date publicly.

The John Lewis Store is large! At 250,000 sq ft, it will be one of the largest John Lewis shops outside London, and will feature more than 350,000 products.

The infrastructure appears to have been completed as is much of the outside panelling.

Below are some photos tracing the building along Hill Street and  round into Station Street ending with a single shot of the other side taken from Bullring.

While I was photographing a few days ago the main tower crane, which had resided inside the store from the beginning, was being dismantled piece by piece and lowered onto Station Street for subsequent removal.

Carrying out this tricky process was a gigantic mobile crane with 16 wheels and rated at lifting 500 tons. I say tricky because each dismantled section would weigh many tons and any wayward swing could demolish not only parts of the new store but also the listed buildings of character in Station Street.

I photographed one enormous section containing the main pulley and this took 25 minutes to be lowered! Having landed the bottom of the section onto the surface of Station Street, it started to rock backwards and forwards. At first I thought that this was deliberate so that when a suitable slope from the top to the street was achieved then the section could be lowered in the desired direction. However, I guess I was wrong because all the spectators and passers-by had to wait several minutes until the oscillations ceased before the section was finally lowered to lie horizontally along Station Street.
WARNING: The photos below are purely for mechanical skyscraper anoraks! 😉

Geoff Caine

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