Like anyone else during this week, I had walked around the New Street Station to see what this £750m investment brought for Birmingham. While the (new) New Street Station was opened to the public last Sunday (September 20), The Grand Central and John Lewis were inaugurated just this Thursday (September 24).
The transformation outside and inside the station is really impressive.
From the old station, I remember a pub, some few coffee shops and a huge lack of light and space. It used to be a place to passing by very quickly or even running, just in case you were late for your train. Or if your train was the one to be delayed, the only thing left to do was finding a good space to sit down and wait. And wait.
The new station features now 43 shops, together with the new Grand Central shopping complex, including one the largest John Lewis department stores in the UK.
But it would be a bit silly to say that JUST a bit of retail therapy is making difference in the New Street revamp.
The Grand Central brought much more than many different establishments spread at all over the New Street Station. It brought more than 1000 jobs to people in the city. And it will certainly attract tourists from all over the country and abroad.
The station is certainly much more attractive not just because of the shopping itself. But it is easier to check the train timetables now and there is extra personnel dealing with the passengers enquires, everywhere you go.
However, I confess I have expected a bit more refurbishment in the platforms because the usual commute queues and chaos waiting for the trains still is a huge concern for commuters.
Especially when we are about to face the Christmas season soon when much more people visit Birmingham because of the German Market and usual Christmas shopping in the Bull Ring and Grand Central.
But taking everything into account, I didn’t see any major problems during my visit to The Grand Central on the inauguration day.
The shops and restaurants were packed as expected but even John Lewis was coping well with the number of visitors. I got a map from the shop and walking around was quite okay considering it was 5pm. A rush hour time for commuters and visitors.
Check the list of shops at Grand Central at this post, in Portuguese, at the local blog Brummie Br.
It is also pretty clear that behind the success of a stunning new roof in the station and the John Lewis famous eye, there are much more to be offered to the city. It is now time to find out if the economic return expected with this giant investment will pay the price of this huge refurbishment.
Bits & bobs: I will be honest to say that some shops in the New Street, like Leon and Hema, certainly got my eyes. Hema is an international retail “collective” with shops in many countries of Europe such as Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.
It is also my dream shop where you can find (quality) bits and bobs for a very cheap price. It is perfect to be placed on New Street when you need some chocolate, candies, travelling accessories such as headphones and even a new suitcase. JUST love it!
Considering that @leonrestaurants is placed right in front of the platform I usually take the train back home, it's going to be very difficult to avoid super [fast] food from now to go. #superfood #fastfood #naturalfood #leon #sweetpotatofalafel #newstreetstation #takeaway #lovedit #delicious #birmingham
My second passion is Leon. I confess I was counting the days to try their superfood (fast food) menu and not to my surprise, it was absolutely delicious. The concept is pretty honest and simple: make fast food be good food. The flavours are all there.
I do recommend getting some takeaways on the way back home. It is just about gorgeous super (fast) food.
Paperchase is another great adding. One of my favourite shops already had a branch in Sutton Coldfield, where I live. Now it’s right in the city centre. I just love the shop and I can`t wait to spend some cash on bentos, notebooks and other paper stuff. And I still have 15% of discount to be used. Result!
John Lewis : What you see is what you get. It is a temple of retail with prices that are not so inviting but whatever, there is always a sale after Christmas to spend some cash on it.
The fact is the New Street revamp (more than necessary for commuters) and the opening of Grand Central is really welcomed. It won`t change the fact the city has already great restaurants and really nice independent shops around. It just shows that Birmingham is always thinking big. And it is good. Good for the second largest city in the UK.
Photos | Simone Ribeiro and Rob Dann