The Bird Box transformed an unattractive site in Bromsgrove town centre with creative seating, a stage and open areas. It has been a lifeline to local businesses in providing socially-distanced space for small retail outlets and outdoor eateries to serve customers during pandemic restrictions.
Who is the developer/client of the project?
Bromsgrove District Council and North Worcestershire Economic Development and Regeneration (NWeDR)
Describe the context of this project and its contribution to the urban life and user experience of the place.
Designed by ONE Creative Environments (ONE), on behalf of North Worcestershire Economic Development and Regeneration (NWedR) and Bromsgrove District Council, “The Bird Box” has transformed an unused and unattractive site in Bromsgrove town centre into a temporary public realm and mixed-use community destination bringing a hive of activity into this central location.
Named after a feature carved into many of the existing shopfronts to celebrate heritage and create a sense of place, the “Bird Box” provides a flexible space for ‘pop-up’ and mobile businesses giving opportunities and support to start-ups and local entrepreneurs. The project also includes community facilities: a stage, creative seating and open areas.
The demand for the Bird Box was strong and during COVID-19 this has been a lifeline to local businesses providing social distancing space for small retail outlets, that do not have enough internal space to serve all customers, as well as supporting outdoor eateries that in many cases would not have been able to operate during Pandemic restrictions.
Feature trees in planters with lighting scattered through the space offer flexibility, shade and extend the use of the site during the evening. There is provision for public arts projects, bold graphics and a range of materials which create a fun and vibrant atmosphere and following COVID-19 restrictions, will enable events to take place.
The Bird Box was launched in August 2020 and was well received by the community, businesses and all stakeholders.
How has this project, event or installation enlivened the place in a creative way?
This project was very much about breathing new life into a disused, unattractive area in a prominent location. The market hall building on the site was demolished leaving it derelict for years and it has been fenced off ever since. Removing the hoarding has increased visibility across the site and has had a positive effect in reducing anti-social behaviour.
The project wanted to attract an audience of all ages, provide opportunities to local businesses including fledging start-ups and be an exciting, modern destination. Therefore, the vibrant art installations on the stage, bright orange colours for the fencing and feather artwork on the ground were used.
The branding of this new place ‘The Bird Box’ is a nod to the local heritage and encourages people to look up and take in the beautiful carvings on many of the shopfronts, which have potentially been previously overlooked, and creates a sense of pride of place. The use of the hashtag #BirdBox and the creative artistic birds bring a modern twist to reinvigorate this central location and harness social media to gain support.
The materials being reused are all in keeping with the surrounding area as are the mature trees with the trees ‘framing’ the area and the skyline of the church’s spire. The creative artificial grass seating again provides that modern twist for a leafy, green environment providing an outdoor place for businesses during COVID-19 and a community venue for events following the Pandemic.
What do you see as the greatest success of this project?
This project, which had a very limited budget, has breathed new life into a disused, unattractive prominent location in a creative and sustainable way.
The greatest success was to bring the derelict site back in to use and give it back in to public ownership, even if only on a temporary basis. The timing of this development coincided with lockdown and has provided a lifeline to the High Street and local economy during COVID-19.
The site is owned by Bromsgrove District Council and due to the economic climate had not been viable for development. For years it has remained derelict and unattractive but members of the public and the council have been fighting for it to be opened for community use. The first phase of the development site has been a success - a new Waitrose store. However, the second phase proved more challenging to deliver. Therefore, the Bird Box is a temporary use for the community until the site can be positively developed providing a flexible space that can naturally evolve and change over the course of its life.
With a feeling that this is for the “greater good”, all parties have gone the extra mile to drive the project forward and ensure that quality is maintained. Almost everything that was on site has been re-used or recycled: existing concrete building foundations formed the sub-base and block paving, granite aggregate and timber from a felled tree were used to face gabion baskets.
Please share any data or figures that support your entry, for example increased footfall, happiness surveys, event attendance and/or observed changes in behaviour. Did it make a positive economic, social and environmental contribution? You may also attach any news clippings, testimonials, or additional images or documents to support your entry.
The Bird Box has been well-used and received great feedback with an active Facebook page: www.facebook.com/BirdBoxBromsgrove/
Since the original hoarding has been removed, which has provided greater visibility, anti-social behaviour has been perceived to reduce with people enjoying the Bird Box.
Since opening the client has been delighted with the legacy:
Bromsgrove District Council Leader Karen May said: “I am delighted to see the BirdBox open for business. As well as playing a part in the town’s future, it is an important part of our heritage.
"If you look up, at the buildings around this area, you will see little wooden structures which look like birdboxes, and this was the inspiration for the name.
“Although slightly delayed by the global pandemic, the Birdbox has opened in time to offer a vital lifeline to the businesses.” www.bromsgroveadvertiser.co.uk/news/18633375.birdbox-opening-bromsgrove-open-air-food-drink/
Jane Berry, Regeneration and Implementation Officer, NWeDR, said: “Since opening and between lockdown restrictions, the Bird Box has seen great footfall, supported local businesses and provides a vibrant social space for local people. It has been very positive for the town.”
Bromsgrove District Council’s portfolio holder for leisure, Coun Philip Thomas, said: “It was great to see such a fantastic turnout last weekend and weather permitting success will follow this weekend.
“This council wanted to support our traders in the hospitality trade who, because their premises are too small, cannot operate within the current social distance guidance. I urge are residents to support these independents which add to the vibrancy of our town.” bromsgrovestandard.co.uk/news/bromsgroves-birdbox-set-to-fly-high-again-this-weekend-after-last-weeks-success/