Amex House, the nine-storey, 300,000 square foot office block, was designed by Gollins Melvin Ward and cost a reported £10 million. It was built over part of Mighell Street, and a number of other streets disappeared under the building, including Boss’s Gardens. The building, nicknamed ‘The Wedding Cake’, was officially opened on September 15 1977 as the European customer service HQ of the American Express Corporation.
The company had previously used sites all over Sussex, but first moved into the Edward St area in 1968, when it moved its Mechanical Accounting centre to the Virgo Walker building.
Amex is now the city’s largest private sector employer, with more than 3,000 staff, and contributes 7% of the city economy, worth about £300 million a year. This explains the jitters that went around the city when, in 2008, it was feared that the company would move elsewhere, as it needed bigger, better premises.
Possible new homes were said to be Crawley, Exeter, Scotland or somewhere in mainland Europe. However, in September 2008, Amex confirmed it would not be moving from Edward St.
Instead, it applied for planning permission to create a new 265,000 sq ft building behind Amex House, which would be demolished by 2016.
The new building will have between five to nine floors, plus two basement floors, new vehicle access off John Street. There will be 106 car parking spaces and 132 cycle parking spaces on the site.
In May 2009, Amex reached an agreement with the council, which agreed to sell the firm the freehold of the land in Eastern Road to carry out the redevelopment of the site. The deal included a clause which requires the company to make a long-term commitment to basing its operations in Brighton.
Amex will build a new office block on its car park site, bordering Carlton Hill. The company owns half of the historic Mighell St farmhouse which needs restoration.
On November 4 2009, Brighton and Hove City Council’s planning committee voted unanimously in favour of the proposals. One of the conditions of the Amex plans is that a £300,000 donation is made to Carlton Hill Primary School, which will have its playground overshadowed by the extension. The money will allow the school to relocate its playground and revamp facilities.
As well as saving the Amex jobs, it was estimated that the £130 million redevelopment would also sustain 75 non-Amex jobs and could create more than 1,000 construction jobs.