Ambitious proposals to breathe new life into the Chance Glassworks site next to the M5 first emerged in 2016. Progress is steadily being made, with experts having now being brought on board to move the project forward.
It is hoped 160 two-bed apartments, a small conference facility, café, retail space, heritage educational centre, enterprise space and an iconic 30-metre tall lighthouse, a nod to its past, will eventually stand on the site, which in its heyday supplied specialist lenses to 2,000 lighthouses across the world.
Delays and complications with the site led to questions about whether the project would ever come to fruition but work is now beginning to ramp up.
The first phase will include the renovation of the seven-storey building which overlooks the motorway. The project has the support of Sandwell Council bosses and it is hoped work on the site, which has been largely abandoned for almost 40 years, will start next year.
Mark Davies, chair of the Chance Heritage Trust, believes the restoration will be worth the wait.
He said: "The gates on Chance Glassworks closed in 1981 and ever since the buildings have remained derelict and are fast decaying - we needed to find a solution, as it is such a waste of one of the West Midlands’ most historical sites.
“We have had the plans drawn up and we have backing from a number of key stakeholders, including the local authorities; now is the time to push on and bring the vision to reality.
“It used to be such a vibrant site and played an important part in the Black Country’s industrial heritage. The dream is to create a modern-day urban village that can drive jobs, drive investment and become a tourist destination that we can all be proud of.”
Birmingham-based property consultants Vail Williams LLP recently provided property valuation advice, which will support the acquisition of the building and phase one development works.
Tonia Flannagan, a director on the trust board, said: “Smethwick has suffered from a lack of investment and continues to struggle with high unemployment and a lack of skills.
“Bringing the Chance Brothers Glassworks site back to life gives us the perfect opportunity to address some of these issues and we are already looking at innovative ways where we can team up a with a construction company to deliver employment and training opportunities for individuals struggling to find work."
Shares are being offered to the public to help raise funds for the project. Information on how they can be purchased will be available at a special event at Smethwick Library on Saturday (29th) at 11am.