Millennium Point was, back in the latter 1990’s, a forming idea. It would one, challenge partnership development to a really deep level; two, be seen as the catalyst for investment in a really disconnected part of Birmingham’s city centre which had sat empty and avoided for decades as a hole between living communities and the business district; and three, need to celebrate the birth of the Industrial Revolution and the future of design, science, technology and learning for a city region. So, quite a big ask!

So here we are in 2014, as a thriving independent trust, now a teenager – we are 13. So in human terms, we are embarking on the second phase of ambition and consolidating what we are.

Partnership working has worked to the rather amazing extent in that Birmingham City University (BCU), a founding partner here, has invested multiple millions in locating the majority of its functions to Eastside. It has invested several million pounds in Millennium Point itself and we now host the School of Acting and the Engineering faculty. This year we celebrated the agreement to relocate the Birmingham Conservatoire, the jewel in the BCU crown, on land owned by us. That is another £40m pound investment which, incidentally, frees up the blockage to the development of Paradise Circus at the other end of the city centre. The Millennium Point Trust has invested in new galleries in Thinktank, part of Birmingham Museums Trust, but most importantly the science garden, an outdoor play and learning space – an acclaimed expansion of the Thinktank footprint. These refreshing new spaces have helped keep visitor numbers up at Thinktank. In the last four years Millennium Point Trust has donated in excess of £3.7m to its partners.

One of the most astonishing stories about Eastside is the scale of investment and development that went on throughout the recession. We now have two academies – one for engineering and the other, Birmingham Ormsiton Academy, specialising in performing arts, which has had a flying start and at just three years old is exceeding the benchmarks in results. We have a 4 star hotel – Hotel La Tour which I could not book a meeting space in recently as it was fully occupied. Aston University has developed its estate and Innovation Birmingham – the heart of the digital entrepreneur cluster, has announced a new investment plan and expansion. The most important thing to happen has been, perhaps surprisingly, the construction of a new multi-storey car park – but that is because cars are best stacked up rather than laterally occupying space as they had done previously. That space is now the Eastside city park which has won very many design awards and has a real European feel – not surprisingly when you consider that it was a result of an international design competition with Patel Taylor winning the commission. As a well-used, what I would call a most democratic space, its most successful move is making a green connection to the two key stations which serve our area – Moor Street and New Street; both nearer to us than to Brindley Place, to the west of the city centre.

I am currently working with a cluster of design consultants to look to the launch, in early 2015, of a very substantial series of development opportunities inside and outside Millennium Point. This will be our own example of real intensification and it will be an invitation to cultural, arts, technology and entertainment institutions to work with us on creating a media/digital/futures cluster centred on us as one of the largest open and publicly accessible buildings in the city region. Our strap line is “be amazed” and we intend deepening the experience to visitors and students here beyond what we already do. This will build on two successful foundations – the fact that as a landlord we are exactly 99% full, thus we need and want to expand and secondly we now work with the most innovative arts and cultural people in Birmingham on a rather fascinating blend of art and science, part of our new arts strategy which is just one year old. We will be repurposing the cinema as an auditorium for projection and performance and upping our game on creating more space to eat, drink and dwell. This has started by the arrival, just 4 weeks ago, of a small but ambitious and award winning coffee outlet, 6/8 Kafe. We are its second site, within our atrium and it is trading exceedingly well. The building has developed in a way which probably was not foreseen by the original promoters and designers; but who, at the conception of a child, knows what it would be as it embarks on its teenage years? Millennium Point has developed muscles and its own dreams and it is delivering with greater pace than ever before. Regeneration on this scale takes bravery and very long sighted vision – Millennium Point is an absolute classic case of that.

The Millennium Point Trust is shortly to launch an investment in a young student to study a degree in a science or technology subject, working with schools in Birmingham as well as a lighting design competition to enliven our south façade. This is proof that we want to impact on individual’s lives, as well as the 32 million passers-by each year.

We have created a buzz about Eastside and we continue to do so. The horizon that we are now looking at is the opportunity presented by the Curzon Station – the HS2 Birmingham terminus which would be precisely a three minute walk from our door. I expect us to be busier and even more ambitious as a result of that.

Read more about Millennium Projects in this Observer article published 2nd November 2014 

AUTHOR: Philip Singleton, CEO - Millennium Point
Follow Philip on Twitter: @philipsingleton