Fort Dunlop marks a century

It’s one hundred years since the first tyres rolled off the production lines at Birmingham’s Fort Dunlop.

Dunlop Rubber opened its Erdington factory in 1917. Part of a 300-acre site, it grew to become the global tyre maker’s flagship production facility and at one time the largest factory in the world, employing 10,000 people in its heyday.

The site became known as the ‘tyre town’, boasting its own trains and transport system, fire brigade and ambulance services, canteens to feed the workers, sports fields for recreation and a power station to supply steam, electricity and water to the factories.

Today, only the former storage building, built in 1925, remains. Troubled Dunlop was split up and sold in 1985, with the main plant sold and the storage building we now know as Fort Dunlop mothballed. Only a small, specialised motorsport operation remained on site until 2014.

Still one of Birmingham’s most recognisable buildings, Fort Dunlop has been re-invented as a vertical office park, housing 2,500 workers from businesses including Trinity Mirror, NHS, Capita and Inspired Thinking Group.

The seven-storey 360,000 sq ft monolith’s locally listed façade has been retained following a £40m facelift by former owners.  A new modern extension houses a Travelodge hotel and retailers including Costa, Subway, Specialized Bikes and Poggenpohl now occupy its ground floor.

In 2014, the building was acquired by a fund managed by Tristan Capital Partners, the London-based real estate business, partnering with local development and asset management business EDG Property.

Fort Dunlop’s evolution is set to continue under the new ownership. Plans include a glass extension on the rooftop, the refurbishment of vacant office space, new landscaping to the front of the building and additional car parking.

Neil Edginton, of EDG Property, said

“Fort Dunlop as we know it today is very different to the sprawling plant that grew up under Dunlop Rubber. However, it’s still a hive of industry, with more than 50 businesses housed under its expansive roof.

“We have earmarked more than £5m for continuing investment in this iconic building. This includes refurbishing the small amount of vacant office space we have.

“The glazed extension to the rooftop will be an exciting and versatile addition, providing office, meeting, exhibition or leisure space.

“We are working hard to ensure that Fort Dunlop’s future is assured for another century.”

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