Birmingham reaches for the sky to reclaim its ‘2nd city’ status

City unveils its plan for vertical theme park as part of major regeneration scheme.

Shoppers on New Street in Birmingham are used to seeing the advertisements for the city’s attractions displayed by the city council. The latest of these may turn a few heads though. Images of the proposed Eastside redevelopment show a structure that looks like it has been designed by Orson Welles. The building in question is the VTP200, or ‘vertical theme park’, the latest idea to attract tourists to the city, but judging by the council’s promotion campaign, this idea looks like becoming reality. The tripod-esque VTP200 is part of the councils attempt to create a knowledge and learning quarter in the currently decaying and run down area to the east of the city centre, and will contain ‘rides’ such as a skywalk and a freefall drop to attract thrill seekers to Brum. It is also part of a wider vision to put Birmingham on the map as a ‘skyline city’ in the mold of its twin city Chicago. Although technically the second largest city in the UK, Birmingham has fallen behind Manchester in the way it is perceived by the rest of the country. Whereas Manchester has carved a new image of itself as a leader in culture, music, and sport; Birmingham still struggles with a hangover of industrial decline and 60’s architecture. The development of a skyline reminiscent of a major city is one of the main ways that Birmingham aims to dispel this image. Currently it is lagging behind Manchester in its race to the sky, with Manchester’s Beetham Tower, at 157m, dwarfing Birmingham’s tallest buildings. The Snow Hill Tower, currently under construction, will help Birmingham’s push towards having a skyline to be proud of, but the VTP200, and other proposed structures will be the buildings which really give the skyline an impressive silhouette. Crucially, at 200m in height, the VTP200 will be taller than any of the current or proposed buildings in Manchester, the approved Piccadilly Tower, at 188m, will mean that with the VTP200’s construction, Manchester would lose its claim to the tallest building outside the capital. However, with previous projects such as the Birmingham Needle and Arena Central being scrapped, Brummies shouldn’t get too excited at the thought of a 200 meter freefall just yet.