An exciting time for Eastside! Eastside has forged a reputation as Birmingham’s creative, innovative and vibrant quarter and, with anticipation building for the arrival of high-speed rail (HS2) as well as other major developments starting to take shape, Eastside’s role in the continued regeneration of our city is set to build even further. At the beginning of this year, alongside my role as CEO at Millennium Point, I became chair of the Eastside Forum. For my first blog post on the new-look Millennium Point website I wanted to take the opportunity to share some of the events and developments taking place within this thriving quarter of the city. Birmingham Big Art Project The Birmingham Big Art Project is an ambitious five-year campaign to commission and install an iconic and innovative piece of public art that will gain international recognition and put Birmingham on the world’s cultural map. The piece of art will be located at the western entrance to the current Eastside City Park right next to Millennium Point and the future gateway to HS2. Given its location, the artwork will be a major destination and arrival point in the city, attracting tourism and creating economic benefit, at the same time as becoming an important heritage for future generations of Birmingham. The project is gearing towards completion in April 2018 but this will be dependent on raising the £2.5 million that’s needed. The steering group’s events committee has lots of exciting activity planned over the coming months to raise these necessary funds, including a themed fundraising ball, a public consultation launch, an exhibition and a competition involving schools. For anyone wanting to donate and play a part in this fantastic cause, I would strongly encourage you to do so via www.birminghambigartproject.org.uk where you will find a ‘donate’ button. Christopher Wray complex Now approved with a target completion date of July 2017, the Christopher Wray complex will be restored and converted into a mixed-use development called The Emporium. As well as a 15 storey student apartment block, the scheme will feature two bars or restaurants and design studios. Hoardings will be erected in May 2016 and final plans for the building are due to be circulated to the Eastside Forum members so watch this space for further updates. HS2 Whilst it’s not due to open until 2026, HS2 developments are starting to take shape. Designs for the new National College for High-Speed Rail headquarters on Birmingham Science Park Aston were unveiled last month and the project has now been granted planning permission. Providing specialist vocational training for future generations of engineers, the £22m facility will contain workshops, classrooms, a café, office space and an external teaching area containing railway tracks, masts and social space next to the canal. Construction is due to start in April and in the meantime, I’m pleased to announce that John Evans, chief executive of the new college, will be joining us at our next Eastside Forum meeting to provide us with further updates. iCentrum On track to open next month, iCentrum® marks the first phase of Innovation Birmingham’s £30 million campus expansion plan, which is set to deliver 42,149 sq ft (3,881 sq m) of flexible office space for innovative tech businesses. With office suites available as multiples of 500 sq ft and an impressive 180-seat auditorium with 7m+ wide HD presentation screen; the development will also include the 10,000 sq ft Serendip® Smart Cities Incubator, a unique new offering brought about through collaboration with several commercial partners; designed to accelerate the development of start-up ventures and facilitate innovative collaborations between businesses and commercial partners. This development will be key in further promoting Eastside’s reputation as the city’s knowledge quarter where innovation is born. Centro Birmingham has long been criticised for its lack of transport connectivity but that is set to change over the coming years. Outlined by Birmingham City Council in its HS2 Curzon Masterplan, the new Centro Eastside route will link Midland Metro with the proposed HS2 station at Curzon Street via New Canal Street through Digbeth to Adderley Street. As well as connecting key transport hubs, including HS2, New Street and Snow Hill stations, the Centro Eastside route will provide a cross-city tram link to the west side of Birmingham. Forming part of Centro’s strategy for the region towards a ‘world class integrated transport network’, the new route will support the continued regeneration of this city. Birmingham Conservatoire Meanwhile, the Birmingham Conservatoire is progressing towards completion in early 2017. The £40 million Conservatoire will sit next to Millennium Point as a replacement for the current facility which is to be demolished as part of the Paradise Circus redevelopment. The building will be seven stories tall and include a 500 seat hall to replace the Adrian Boult Hall, and 200 and 150 seat rooms for smaller performances. As you can see, there is so much happening in the Eastside area and I’m excited and proud to witness its rapid change. I look forward to sharing further Eastside Forum updates with you over the coming months, alongside news from Millennium Point.