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Friday, 31 May, 2002, 06:36 GMT 07:36 UK
Famous market rings the changes
New market
A new centre is taking shape at the Bullring

Looming above Birmingham's 800-year-old market, one of Europe's biggest building sites is taking shape.

Glass-fronted shops are replacing the concrete sprawl of the infamous Bull Ring which became a symbol of what went wrong with 1960s architecture.

It is a 500m development which is changing the centre of England's second city.

But in the shadow of the towering cranes and steel frames, the traders of the open market struggle to keep their businesses alive.

Artists impression of new Bullring
The new Bullring will open in September 2003
"Our livelihoods have been compromised," says market trader Carl Spiegel who led a campaign opposing the redevelopment of the Bull Ring.

"Traders have suffered, their incomes have been reduced.

"Many people have left the trade. They have gone bankrupt."

Nevertheless a steady stream of people continue to hunt out a bargain at the indoor, rag and open markets.

From outside the front doors of the Rotunda, where the project team for the new Bullring is based, shoppers walk along a temporary footway over the building site.


The public square will become the meeting place for the city

Jon Emery, project director
As Mr Spiegel points out, the markets are hidden from the rest of the city centre and difficult to reach.

But this will change when the newly-branded Bullring, which is now one word instead of two, opens in 2003.

A new pedestrian street will lead down the hill to a square by St Martin's Church across from the markets.

The developers say the new shopping mall will link both the church and the markets into the city centre.

Against change

"The public square will become the meeting place for the city," says Jon Emery from the Birmingham Alliance.

"Somewhere for people to gather, chat and relax before heading back once more to explore the Bullring."

Carl Spiegel, picture courtesy of Carl Spiegel
Carl Spiegel warns that the markets could die out
Demolition work began in June 2000.

"At that time there were people who did not want change," says Luke Unsworth, who has spent two years photographing the Bull Ring and the people who work there.

"I think there was a good social fabric there, people had known each other for a long time and I don't know if that is still there."

When the new Bullring is completed, there will be two department stores and 132 shops and restaurants.

It will have direct access to New Street and Moor Street stations and 3,000 car parking spaces.

Royal praise

The Birmingham Alliance is made up of Hammerson plc, Henderson Global Investors Ltd and Land Securities, which is pumping a total of 800m into Birmingham's regeneration.

Their schemes follow other successful developments such as the Mailbox and Brindley Place - two other shopping and leisure complexes.


We want to be part of the major shopping experience of this city centre

Carl Spiegel, market trader
They are changes which were praised by Prince Charles when he visited the city last month.

He said: "I think Birmingham is beginning to rediscover its architectural riches and heritage and the value of quality urban space."

But Mr Spiegel warns the social and commercial heritage of the markets could disappear if shoppers do not return.

He is currently part of a committee discussing with the city council how the new site of the open market can be improved.

"We want to be part of the major shopping experience of this city centre.

"Our vision of the future is of the markets to run in conjunction with all the developments that are going on."

Artists impression of the new Bullring
The new Bullring will transform the city centre

Rotunda and crane
The Rotunda is a major landmark in Birmingham

Debenhams building
A tower stands at one corner of the new Bullring

Demolition, picture courtesy of Luke Unsworth
Many people were pleased to see the Bull Ring go

Web cam
Web cams watch over the building progress


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See also:

30 May 02 | UK
29 Apr 02 | England
16 Sep 99 | e-cyclopedia
25 Feb 99 | UK
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