Second city's tower dreams

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The Independent Online
Plans were unveiled yesterday for a pounds 300m development which would include Britain's second-tallest skyscraper. The Arena Central scheme would create a "new international landmark" for Birmingham, towering 656ft (200 metres) over Centenary Square in the heart of the West Midlands city, the developers Hampton Trust said.

The heart of the development is the City Tower, which would soar above the 600ft International Finance Centre - formerly the NatWest Tower - in the City of London. But it would still be dwarfed by the tower at Canary Wharf, in Docklands, east London, which reaches 800ft at its peak.

Included in the plans, comprising more than one million square feet of lettable space, are a 400-bedroom hotel, residential apartments, offices, an ice rink, cinema, sports centre, casino and theme rides.

Graeme Jackson, the Hampton Trust's chairman and chief executive, said that Arena Central would become Birmingham's leisure "jewel in the crown". "Arena Central will create for Birmingham a centre of excellence for leisure, arts and entertainment," he said.

The development would provide a home for the Birmingham Film Theatre and proposed National Asian Film Institute, as well as Britain's first 100-seat city centre interactive theme ride.

A complex called the Twilight Zone would include a Las Vegas-style theatre- restaurant, casino, nightclubs and restaurants. A large "water feature" in the centre of the development will be equipped to be frozen at any time of year for use as an ice rink. And City Tower itself would house a hotel, apartments and offices.

The plans must be approved by Birmingham City Council before work can begin, but they have already won plaudits from the authority's deputy leader Councillor Bryan Bird.

"I am delighted to see this proposal. It will add to the attractions of the Broad Street area, bringing new visitors, new jobs, new residents and a greater international image."