TouchBase Pears is a pioneering and innovative development for Sense, a national charity that supports deafblind people or those who have sensory impairments.
The design of the building follows Sense’s vision to redefine what the “normal” approach to buildings of this nature should be within an achievable budget. The key user groups are people with disabilities and the wider community and the aim is one of integration, so that as many people as possible will benefit from the facilities at TouchBase Pears.
The ground floor comprises a wide range of day service facilities designed with the needs of users in mind, including a fully equipped life skills kitchen, interactive sensory spaces, arts and crafts rooms, and performing arts and leisure facilities.
In addition, the building includes a public café, library, theatre, sensory garden, affordable conference facilities and meeting spaces for community groups and local services, as well as office space for 120 of the charity’s staff. The reaction from all visitors to TouchBase Pears has been very positive and people are astounded by the design, facilities, space, attention to detail and sheer scale of the building.
The scheme opened in September 2017 and since then the activities and usage of the building has grown at a rapid rate so there is now an extensive diary of events and activities each month. The café grows busier and provides a vital community facility plus employment, work experience and volunteering opportunities.
In business development terms, TouchBase Pears provides a key addition to the charity’s portfolio, opening it up to new markets and greatly expanding its customer and user base. In addition to its own activities, Sense also rents space on a long-term lease to other complimentary organisations such as the RNIB, Carers, Contact-a-Family and the Adage Dance Studio. All of the tenants have expressed their delight with the building, the accommodation and the facilities provided.
This £10 million project was undertaken under the JCT Design and Build Contract 2011 and was funded by many contributors including Birmingham City Council, the Arts Council, various charitable trusts and individual private donations.