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Work is under way at one of Birmingham’s most exciting new developments. Enabling works have started at The School Yard in the upmarket suburb of Harborne as developer EDG Property announces the appointment of its professional team.

Birmingham based K4 Architects is leading the design team on the mixed use scheme, alongside M&E engineers Jonathan Richards Associates , structural engineers Curtins and acousticians JRA Acoustics.  Eversheds and Presence Marketing are also providing specialist advice, while the shortlisting process for the main contractor is under way.

The building, which is prominently located on Harborne High Street, has long been part of the neighbourhood’s fabric and identity. Built in 1891, it first housed the local school before taking on a number of different uses, most recently as an adult learning and community centre. This is the first time in its history that the building will be comprehensively and sympathetically restored in this £5.5 million project.

Neil Edginton, managing director of EDG Property, said: “We know how important our high streets are, playing a vital role in supporting the local economy and as part of the community. Harborne is already home to a number of successful, independently owned businesses and we now have the opportunity to breathe new life into this beautiful, but derelict, Victorian building and add to this vibrant neighbourhood.

“This is a really special and important project for us and for Harborne and the surrounding areas – we must get it right. Announcing our professional team and starting enabling works are major milestones for the project and announcing our dream team is a great way to end the year. It sets us up to hit the ground running with construction early in the new year and, when we confirm our main contractor, we can press ahead with work onsite and hit our target to start tenant fit-out towards the end of the summer.  We all want to enjoy the new public square next Christmas.”

The plans for the scheme include restoring the original building and converting it into restaurant units and a cookery school. The designs incorporate many of the historical Victorian features of the Grade II listed building while adding a new contemporary building at the rear of the old school playground where the residential element will be located. The old and new will wrap around a central courtyard and public square.

Bob Ghosh, K4 Architects, said: “This is a golden opportunity to mesh old and new, bringing a local landmark back into community use and developing a building that is fit for purpose as well as being somewhere people want to spend their leisure time.

“Our designs are focussed on creating a “heart” at the centre of the scheme with a new publicly accessible courtyard in the footprint of the original school playground. This will provide a focal space for outdoor eating, speciality markets and seasonal events.”

Italian eatery Prezzo, which is teamed with signature chef Aldo Zilli, and local restaurateur Chris Kelly’s Metro Continental will be opening at The School Yard within the next 12 months. Kitchen School, a community cookery school, has also been secured. This foodie heaven will offer regular classes catering for the beginner cook through to artisan courses for cheese and bread making as well as drop-in cookery clubs and food/ drink related events.  EDG Property will be announcing more new tenants early in the new year.

Phase two of The School Yard will be unveiled after Christmas and will include the residential element of the scheme. It is anticipated that it will comprise a small number of high specification, new build apartments.

EDG Property’s Managing Director Neil Edginton is delighted to have been appointed Chairman of Harborne Business Association.

The Association comprises of key Harborne business people who are genuinely keen to act in the best interests of the local community. The committee meets monthly to discuss local issues and make plans for the aspirational village.

Upon appointment Neil said; “Next year will see EDG property’s latest development, The School Yard, come to life on Harborne High Street, evolving further a suburb that is steeped in heritage. I am really looking forward to bringing this new chapter to fruition and working with the Harborne business community to ensure the neighbourhood not only maintains its excellent reputation as a great place to live and work, but enhances it. We have some exciting plans afoot for 2013!”

If you are a Harborne business owner and wish to get involved with local initiatives, please contact

It may have been some time since EDG Property’s Managing Director Neil Edginton graduated, but his achievements since have not gone unnoticed by Birmingham City University who has selected Neil as Alumni of the Year 2012 in the field of Enterprise and Innovation.

Each year, Birmingham City University recognises just five alumni who have made a significant contribution to the local, national or international community in the course of their career. Neil has been announced as Alumni of the Year 2012 in recognition of his achievements in property development and contribution to the physical and economic landscape of Birmingham.

Neil, who graduated from Birmingham City University with a BSc Hons Environmental Planning and later MSc Project Management said, “I have been fortunate to have played an integral role in shaping Birmingham’s landscape over the last decade with involvement in Fort Dunlop, The Mailbox, The Cube and now The School Yard in Harborne and I am delighted to have been nominated by the University. The city will continue to evolve and I look forward to continuing to help its evolution ”

A presentation will be made to Neil at an awards ceremony to be held at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall next February, in the presence of the University’s Chancellor, the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor John Lines and those graduating from the Faculty of Technology, Engineering and the Environment.

Many will already be aware that planning consent has been granted at EDG Property’s new development The School Yard in Harborne and with Listed building consent also granted, the contractor selection process is now underway.

Enabling works will start on site in the next 4 weeks which will prepare the site ready for the construction team to commence their works.

Contracts have been signed with new tenant Metro, who is soon to be spoiling us with continental tapas cuisine, now busy designing their stylish fit out.  Likewise, the award winning Italian Prezzo and food school Kitchen are working hard on interior plans with 2013’s Quarter 3 opening date scheduled. The new public square is also anticipated to be unveiled next Autumn.

Bringing this listed landmark back to life will be a major milestone for Harborne and we truly believe will add to the High Street experience.

Listed buildings should come with a bit of a health warning. They can become a costly obsession and are certainly not for everyone. A number of our institutional clients will always avoid bringing sites with listed buildings into their portfolio, given the inherent problems that they carry.

However, others see heritage as the means to create places and identity, which sometimes have immeasurable value in real estate terms.

K4 Architects are privileged to be working on some of the most significant heritage projects in Birmingham, including the Central Fire Station, Warwick Bar and The School Yard in Harborne. Although the assets are in levels of disrepair ranging from moderate to severe, without these buildings, the places would not have the same meaning or character. Through both their architecture and their historic uses, listed buildings add a layer of richness to the environment which cannot be otherwise created or manufactured. Nevertheless, the design process is far more involved and complex, as is the construction.

I sit in a quirky first floor office with a barrel-vaulted ceiling, a flagstone floor and a steel strongroom door. My view is a disused banana warehouse and cattle bridge and a historic stoplock, which later became the beginning of the Grand Union Canal. The room itself was Birmingham Canal Navigation’s archive room, where they kept canal records and probably cash collected in toll from the nearby lock. When we took the lease on this building, our instinct was not to modernise, but to peel back the layers of history. The 1970’s steel radiators therefore ended up in a skip and we reinstated all of the fireplaces, which we use to burn biomass.

In the case of the School Yard, the client EDG and K4 share this sense of fascination with the listed building. The essence of the project is to rediscover the inherent qualities of this building and make only subtle changes to the envelope and internal structure.