Planners back apartment scheme for business district office building

How Herbert House will look after the conversion

The conversion of a Birmingham city centre office building into new apartments has been approved by councillors – despite criticisms over the appearance of the scheme.

Herbert House in Cornwall Street was acquired by a Hong Kong investment firm shortly before Christmas and plans for the residential conversion were submitted in January.

The building occupies the corner of Cornwall Street and New Market Street in the city’s business district.

Herbert House Investments proposes to convert the existing building to accommodate 64 apartments – split between nine studios, 32 one-bed and 23 two-bed units – with a variety of retail units on the ground floor.

In addition, the existing roof will be replaced to support the construction of two additional storeys accommodating a further 13 apartments.

It was this latter aspect of the scheme that attracted criticism from several members of the city’s planning committee.

Cllr Barry Henley said the design was akin to dropping a two-storey glass box on top of a red brick building and he criticised it as being “totally unsuitable” for the area.

Nevertheless, the committee approved the scheme.

The plan proposes the change the use of the existing upper floors (first to fifth) from offices to residential. Floors one to four currently have similar floorplates, while the fifth floor is slightly different, in that a section to the rear of the building does not currently exist. The proposal is to ‘infill’ this section at the fifth floor in order to create comparable floorplates on all levels.

The newly formed sixth and seventh storeys will reflect the general arrangement of the existing floors below, and will create 13 two-bed apartments, including one duplex.

In order to avoid the extension appearing ‘top heavy’, the proposal the owners said the intension was to use unobtrusive materials such as aluminum and glazing.

Planning officers stipulated that the two-storey extension should be set back slightly from the roof edge so as not to appear to dominant.