What’s so special about Birmingham?
For anyone who knows the UK’s second-largest city, it’s hard to know where to start.
Birmingham is proud of its central location, industrial heritage and vibrant diversity. It boasts 571 parks, 1000 types of dim sum under one roof, and is home to Cadbury’s chocolate. Whether you come here to shop at Selfridges, view the Staffordshire Hoard or study at one of the Top 100 universities in the world, you’re guaranteed a warm welcome: Brummies are among the friendliest people you’ll find in the UK.
Not enough? Stick around. Birmingham is pretty special already – but it’s about to become extraordinary.
Here’s what in store for Birmingham in 2022 and beyond.
A sporting legacy
Birmingham will host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, cementing the city’s reputation as a hub of sporting excellence.
The city is already home to key international sporting events: athletics at Alexander Stadium, gymnastics at Arena Birmingham and the Ashes at Edgbaston. As well as a new expansion of the Alexander, increasing its permanent seating to 18,000, the Games brings a new sports development in Smithfield for basketball and beach volleyball. Meanwhile, Smethwick’s new aquatics centre will give the city its first Olympic-scale 50m pool.
The University of Birmingham will play a crucial role too. As an official partner of the Games, the campus will be transformed into a Games Village, providing accommodation, catering and training venues for teams and coaches. Squash and hockey events will be held at the University’s state-of-the-art facilities. University train station is also being redeveloped in time for the Games, providing a quick, low-impact and accessible travel route for all to and from the city.
Curzon Street station might have been derelict since 2006, but work continues to bring HS2 to Birmingham, with a new restoration and redevelopment of the historic original building. This high-speed rail link will cut travel time from London to Birmingham to only 49 minutes by 2026.
Curzon Street’s seven platforms will link to the metro (tram) network, and the £450m development of the Eastside area of the city into a new civic, retail and accommodation hub. The new Interchange station, near Solihull, will serve the West Midlands, NEC and Birmingham International Airport.
Travel within the city is also undergoing rapid changes. The metro already provides a convenient and quick connection through the east of the city direct to Wolverhampton. Now, a new extension to the west newly links the city centre with the Town Hall and Library, with a stop at the new Centenary Square development. Ultimately, this route will extend to Edgbaston. A stop at Five Ways is expected to open in 2021.
This £700m investment is set to bring new commercial, retail and leisure space across four squares, with the construction of three new spaces and the redevelopment of Chamberlain Square. Centenary Square is partially open now, where a reflecting pool with water jets and striking lighting outside the Library give a taste of what’s to come.
A walkway will provide new views, and provide a showcase for some of the city’s finest architecture: the Town Hall, Chamberlain Memorial and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Later, a new 22-storey city centre hotel will be joined by more retail, civic and commercial spaces.
The University of Birmingham is making its mark on the city, too. The former Municipal Bank at 301 Centenary Square is being transformed into The Exchange: a new hub for University research, culture and education, open to the public.
The Exchange will open in 2021. It will be available to hire for a range of events and meetings: receptions and dining in the old Vaults surrounded by the original fittings; board meetings overlooking the cityscape; or events in the vast original Banking Hall.
One of the city’s brightest film-making talents has responded to the London-centric production world with a suitably cinematic approach: if we build it, they will come.
Steven Knight is a screenwriter, director, and the creator of Peaky Blinders.
Mercian Studios will occupy a 20-acre site near to Birmingham International and the NEC, with six studios and its own post-production facilities.
Although the project is yet to be fully funded, the plans are accompanied by a flood of investment in the same area, with a proposed £500m redevelopment of the airport and new housing developments.
Although the city centre has plenty to offer, there’s more to see just a few miles away here in Edgbaston.
The University of Birmingham’s commitment to sustainability comes with a promise to provide a welcoming community to students, researchers and city residents alike. It’s easy to see this ethos in action in the Green Heart, at the centre of the University’s Edgbaston campus.
Buildings and car parking have given way to a lush, rolling green area that provides a genuine sense of space and peace in the midst of a busy campus village. The Green Heart is replete with environmentally-friendly features: new self-draining planted areas, a PaveGen path that produces electricity to power outdoor desk sockets, and habitats to promote wildlife. It’s also brought a greater level of accessibility to the central campus.
This space is ideal for outdoor events, with lawns for marquees and stages, excellent accessibility and a range of catering options from its own cafe-bar to pop-up outdoor catering. It’s also an excellent setting for fireworks displays.
With views across the Green Heart, the Teaching and Learning Building offers a 500-seat lecture theatre, a 250-seat interactive lecture theatre, 10 seminar rooms and breakout spaces. It’s available outside term for conferences, and is just a short stroll from all other campus venues.