Scheme will transform eight-year old unit above New Street Station into office space

Ken Shuttleworth’s Make Architects has drawn up proposals to transform Birmingham’s vacant John Lewis department store into offices, capitalising on its location directly above the city’s New Street Station.

The four-storey John Lewis store only opened in 2015, following the £750m redevelopment of New Street Station overseen by Alejandro Zaera-Polo & Maider Llaguno Architecture.

But the retailer pulled the plug on the branch in 2020, along with seven other outlets described as “financially challenged”, and it never reopened after the first pandemic lockdown. It had been the flagship business at the Grand Central shopping centre, which is owned by Hammerson.

Make’s proposals for Hammerson will deliver around 18,500sq m of offices in a development that will be known as “Drum” in recognition of the distinctive shape of the Grand Central feature. Hammerson said there would be space for 2,000 workers at “the best-connected office in Birmingham”.

John Lewis Grand Central GM

Source: Google Maps

The John Lewis branch in 2016, the year after it opened. At the right is the Crown pub, which hosted early performances by Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin

Internal changes will see the former department store’s atrium extended throughout all of its four floors, to include a “a sweeping, open, communal entrance that widens as it rises”. There will also be a rooftop garden lounge and green walls on each level.

As part of the proposals, the ground floor for the department store will be repurposed to deliver a restaurant, bar and food market. Hammerson said there would also be a “premium grocery offer”, a gym and flexible events space.

Make’s Shuttleworth said the plans followed broader work at the practice exploring the UK’s changing retail landscape.

Hammerson - Drum - atrium - Jan 2023[2]

Source: Make Architects / Hammerson

The revised atrium proposed by Make Architects

“We’ve been creatively considering how we rethink big box retail within city centres, to ensure we can enliven these key spaces and draw people back into the workplace by prioritising wellbeing and dynamism,” he said.

“We’ve applied this here so the design for Drum goes beyond a traditional workspace in every sense.”

The practice said its designs centred around “innovatively reusing” the John Lewis retail structure, sustainably retaining as much of it as possible and embedding health, wellbeing, and social amenity into the core of the space.

Hammerson - Drum F&B - Jan 2023

Source: Make Architects / Hammerson

The ground-floor food-and-beverage offer

It said refurbishing the unit rather than developing a new building would save approximately 14,000 tonnes of CO2.

Work is expected to begin later this year for completion in 2025, subject to planning consent.

Birmingham New Street station redevelopment

Aerial view of the Birmingham New Street station redevelopment by AZPML