The University of Birmingham has announced that it will be establishing a new home in the city centre following the decision to purchase the historic Municipal Bank – opposite the Library of Birmingham – on Broad Street.
Working closely with Birmingham City Council and partners, the University is working on plans to restore the heritage building and breathe new life into the space, which is currently unoccupied.
Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, said: “The foundation stone was laid by Neville Chamberlain, son of the University’s founder and first Chancellor, Joseph Chamberlain. We are now bringing this historic landmark back into use for the people of Birmingham, providing a new public gateway to the University’s research and cultural assets.”
“The decision reflects the University’s commitment to playing an active role in the development of the city and to the sharing of research and knowledge beyond campus boundaries.”
Proposals for the development include: a community education hub; performance space for music and drama; café, bar and dining provision; business and professional training space; and meeting and function rooms as an extension to campus facilities.
The building, opposite Centenary Square and the Library of Birmingham, is Grade II listed and was designed by architect, T Cecil Howitt, in the Monumental Classical architectural style. It now sits at the heart of the newly emerging and invigorated city centre, which is recognised as both a cultural and commercial hub, and provides a unique opportunity for the University to enhance its role in these areas.
Trevor Payne, Director of Estates at the University, said: “The large and flexible space brings outstanding potential for a number of exciting initiatives from cultural showcases and community engagement to professional education and access to research. As we develop plans to restore the space, we will continue to explore and consult on how to bring the best of the University to the city.”
The original Municipal Bank was conceived by former Birmingham Lord Mayor, Neville Chamberlain, who created the Birmingham Corporation Savings Bank by a 1916 Act of Parliament, to raise money for World War I. It subsequently became the first and only municipal bank in the country. Neville’s father, Joseph Chamberlain, former Mayor and esteemed politician, founded the University, shaping his vision for the city to link education and skills with employment and a local economy to serve the whole population. This move builds on the heritage and vision of the city’s forefathers and reinstates the bank for public use and benefit.