Stepnell appointed by charity Sense to build landmark project



National deafblind charity Sense has appointed Stepnell for a £9.2m contract to build its new TouchBase Pears centre in Selly Oak, Birmingham.

The new 6,500m2, three storey centre will deliver a major new centre for people with disabilities in the West Midlands and provide a base for the charity to deliver vital specialist services to help people with sensory impairments to learn new skills, build their confidence and engage in community activities. TouchBase Pears will also offer a welcoming hub for wider community services in Selly Oak, including an arts and performance area, gallery, nursery and public café.

Construction work has just started on the building, designed by Glenn Howells Architects, with the centre due to be completed in summer 2017. The overall cost of construction is expected to be £14m, of which the charity has a fundraising target of £5m.

The TouchBase Pears building, in Selly Wharf, will be arranged around a series of outdoor gardens that serve as public, semi-private and private spaces. Every element of the centre’s fully accessible design has been developed in consultation with children and adults with a range of disabilities to ensure that the purpose-built centre meets their needs. It incorporates subtle features, such as differing floor surfaces to help people with visual impairments identify different areas in the building and ‘sensory’ gardens, which have been specially designed to offer a multi-sensory  experience. TouchBase Pears will also make an important contribution to the ongoing regeneration of Selly Oak and its arrival will create over 130 new jobs in the area.

Gillian Morbey OBE, Sense Chief Executive, says:  “We are delighted that construction for this major new centre is under way and that we are one step closer to delivering a resource to the Midlands that will not just benefit people with sensory impairments but will also be a hub for the wider community. The TouchBase Pears centre will make a huge difference to many people’s lives and we can’t wait to open the doors next year.”

Stepnell Construction Director Bill Haynes says:  “We are extremely pleased to be bringing our construction expertise and extensive experience in delivering high performance buildings to this landmark project for Sense. TouchBase Pears will provide vital services for disabled people and the wider community in the West Midlands, offering a wide range of fully accessible facilities.”

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