The Mailbox is one of Birmingham’s iconic landmarks. Built on the site of the old Royal Mail sorting office, it is about to reveal the biggest revamp in its history
Birmingham will see a major transformation this summer with lovers of a spot of ‘retail therapy’ getting a boost the like of which they’ve never seen before. Within a very few months the city will become the only centre outside London to boast shopping’s Big Five as the new John Lewis store joins Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Debenhams and House of Fraser. While the huge development of John Lewis and Grand Central has captured the imagination of Brummies, equally important to the commercial landscape is the £50million redevelopment of one of the city’s landmark buildings, the Mailbox.
The completely revamped, restyled and refreshed centre will open in phases from July culminating in September when it will become the second biggest mixed use building in the UK after The Shard in London. It’s a huge statement by Milligan, the owners of the Mailbox which was the first development to put Birmingham ‘on the map’ by attracting premier brand names and businesses when it opened in 1998. The Mailbox was developed by Birmingham Development Company on the site of the of the Royal Mail’s old main sorting office, previously the location of a railway goods yard with wharves off the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. The new £150million building included two hotels with a total of 300 rooms, 170,000sq ft of office space and 100,000sq ft of retail space – including two units bought by Harvey Nichols – plus restaurants and a health club. Apartments were constructed above the space as the sorting office was demolished leaving just the basic steel structure.
In 2004, a new high-profile resident moved into the Mailbox with the arrival of BBC Birmingham’s studios which replaced the previous Pebble Mill site. The Mailbox became home to among others The Archers as well as being the TV and radio news focus for the region. The BBC recently revealed plans to expand its role in the centre with a £23million UK creative talent hub, including training academy, bringing more than 100 new jobs. Two years ago, owners Milligan Retail announced the current renovation which has seen a roof installed over the shopping complex’s atrium. The project has also seen anchor store Harvey Nichols move more into the heart of the Mailbox and double in size to over 45,000sq ft. “We are all very excited by what is happening in Birmingham in 2015,” said David Pardoe, retail manager at the Mailbox. “The new Mailbox has been 18 months in development and has been a complex project because we have many different occupiers with different requirements. With the changes we have made the Mailbox and Cube are now at the heart of the city scene.”
David was quick to acknowledge the role that the Mailbox has played over the years in raising the profile of the city. “It was an amazing vision and achievement of the original owners to get the likes of brands such as Harvey Nichols and Armani to come to Birmingham in the pre-current Bullring days. But time moves on and these days it’s all about the overall visitor experience. That’s why all the various outlets and facilities, from the restaurants, bars, shops and the new Everyman Cinema, are all hugely important. “All that is happening in the city this year, like Grand Central and the new John Lewis, will bring millions of people into Birmingham and to the new Mailbox. I’ve worked at the Mailbox for seven years and I have never seen everyone so excited about what we are doing and what it means for Birmingham. People will be able to shop the city, from one end right through to the other end.”
MAILBOX TAKE 5
- When completed in 1970, the old Royal Mail sorting office was the biggest in the UK.
- A tunnel to New Street station allowed electric tractors to carry sacks of mail from the trains into the building.
- The Cube was the final phase of the Mailbox development, housing a hotel, flats and Marco Pierre White’s 25th floor rooftop restaurant.
- As well as home to The Archers, the Mailbox is the centre of the BBC’s multi-award-winning Asian Network.
- The space created under the Mailbox’s new glass roof has been dubbed the Urban Room.