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42 Acres Of Custard: The Sweet Taste Of Post-Pandemic Digbeth

Oval/Studio Egret West's proposal for the Viaduct park, with Gibb Street, Digbeth, below.

So the plan is in. Bisnow revealed in October 2019 that Oval Real Estate planned 3.8M SF of new mixed development at High Street Deritend, Digbeth. Now we know what they have in mind.

Masterplanned by Studio Egret West with detailed input from other local architects, the vision is for a massive scaling-up of Oval’s successful Custard Factory over a 42-acre site.

The project will include a 2.2M SF commercial expansion of the Custard Factory’s mix of funky workspace, along with 1,850 homes. The project promises a post-industrial neighbourhood forming “an independent, individual and industrious community for Birmingham.”

The proposals add to the growing list of reasons to suppose Digbeth will be Birmingham’s post-pandemic growth area.

Interest has been stimulated by Nikal’s film studio plans, Lendlease’s emerging £1.5B Smithfield development and the Curzon Street HS2 railway terminus that includes 400K SF of neighbouring office development. Gooch Estates and Seven Capital also have large-scale Digbeth proposals. The area masterplan can be seen here.

The Oval Real Estate plan includes a rethink of the Custard Factory and Bond Company, new riverfront and canal access, and a new “skypark” along the unused Duddeston Viaduct.

In keeping with the post-pandemic emphasis on pedestrian access, two key routes crossing the site from east to west and north to south will give priority to pedestrians.

Phased development will begin with a Glenn Howells-designed extension to the Custard Factory itself, labelled Custard Factory Living, and Wild Works, a cluster of four new office and incubator buildings. 

A three-storey rooftop extension to the Custard Factory will provide open-plan offices, with 40 new homes next door.

“We have intentionally taken our time over three years to prepare this application, ensuring we respect the character of the area and occupants that make Digbeth the place it is today, whilst also responding to the needs of local stakeholders and providing the opportunity for Digbeth to flourish in the right manner,” Oval Head of Development Steve Sanders said.