Evolving Cities: The Changing Face of Birmingham – Ian Stringer, Regional Senior Director

Ian Stringer, Regional Senior Director, GVA

As many an infrequent visitor to our city has recently been heard to comment, Birmingham has undergone a truly remarkable transformation over the last decade.

Far from the post-industrial decline and soaring unemployment of the 1980s and 1990s, Birmingham is a place that has successfully repositioned itself, is taking full advantage of the booming tech, advanced manufacturing conference and creative sectors and benefitting from a clear vision for growth and development.

Driven by far-reaching development frameworks like the Big City Plan and related area masterplans, Birmingham has grown apace, developing some genuinely landmark schemes and has successfully attracted more inward investment in recent years than ever before.

As outlined in the latest in our series of Evolving Cities reports, Birmingham has seen some fundamentally important projects progress or conclude over the last 10 years, covering infrastructure, commercial property and residential sectors, alongside new retail, leisure and cultural offers.

Within the city core, this has included the delivery in 2009 of the final buildings in the Brindleyplace masterplan, a development that was 16 years in the making from conception to completion and that has played a key role for Birmingham as a UK exemplar of mixed use development and, acting as a beacon for investment and attracting big-name financial firms including Lloyds, RBS and Deutsche Bank.

The ambitious Paradise and Arena Central schemes – adjacent to the £189 million Library of Birmingham, completed in 2013 – are both well underway, converting under-utilised and defunct spaces into desirable and attractive workplaces, with enhancement to their that will contribute significantly to Birmingham’s ongoing pedestrian connectivity and quality of environment for pedestrians.

Both have secured significant pre-lets, with accountancy firm PwC committing to 90,000 sq ft across four and-a-half floors at Building One at Paradise, and HSBC UK taking the full 240,000 sq ft at 2 Arena Central as the headquarters for its new UK ringfenced retail banking division.

At the other end of Colmore Row, Ballymore’s Snowhill development has continued to grow following the completion of the first building in 2009, through the delivery of the second parking let to HS2 and we are now seeing the massive 420,000 sq ft Three Snowhill under construction and due for completion in 2019, Birmingham’s longest ever speculative single office building.

The £750 million transformation of New Street Station, which has expanded the concourse to over three and a half times its original size, now offers visitors and commuters to the city a far more fitting welcome while the inclusion of the largest John Lewis outside London as part of the connected Grand Central shopping centre has created a significant boost to Birmingham’s retail market.   As one pundit said “this has put right Birmingham’s biggest embarrassment being the first port of arrival in the City for many.

Birmingham is also home to Park Central, one of the largest and most significant residential schemes in any UK regional city centre. Covering 61 acres the site, which has been brought forward by Crest Nicholson, in partnership with Birmingham City Council is now entering its final phase and once complete will feature 1,650 residential dwellings and 285,000 sq ft of commercial space. A vast improvement on the concrete tower blocks that occupied the Lee Bank site previously.

There is significant activity outside of the traditional city core, with the ambitious 14 acre Eastside Locks development already on track to deliver a new mixed-use development to the east of the centre. The first 45,000 sq ft commercial building on the site – which has consent for a total of 650,000 sq ft, alongside 350,000 sq ft of residential space, a 185 bedroom hotel and 100,000 sq ft of retail and leisure – has already been let to the site’s most significant neighbour, Birmingham City University., which itself has invested heavily in the development of the city centre campus in Eastside.

Away from the commercial sector and to the south of the city, the regeneration of Birmingham’s former Pebble Mill television studio in Edgbaston by Calthorpe Estates into a leading medical and technology centre is ongoing, with only one plot on the 27 acre site remaining.

Further south, St Modwen has led the redevelopment of the 468 acre former MG Rover site at Longbridge, creating a community focused on a new £70 million town centre, new housing, offices, a technology park and a new purpose-built home for Bournville College.

Evolving Cities is about not just our accomplishments to date, but also our ambitions for the future and Birmingham has no shortage of these in the pipeline to build on an ever increasing regional confidence.

Described as a “once in a generation” regeneration opportunity, the City Council’s flagship Smithfield redevelopment  encompasses 34 acres adjoining the  Bull Ring. Work is due to commence in 2019/2020 and, at the end of its projected 15 years development cycle, will deliver a vast range of amenities and commercial opportunities, including family oriented and cultural leisure attractions, in 3.2 million sq ft of mixed-use floorspace and up to 2,000 mixed tenure homes.

In nearby Eastside, Birmingham Curzon will act as the terminus of the first phase of the HS2 line from London, forming a key part of the wider 350 acre Curzon Masterplan. Supporting around 4,000 new homes, the site will also feature an extension to the Midland Metro tram service and will act as a key connection to the Creative Quarter in Digbeth.

Both Calthorpe Estate’s £300 million New Garden Square development to the south of the centre and the Urban Splash-led regeneration of Icknield Port Loop to the west will provide further new residential opportunities. In the case of New Garden Square, the site will also offer significant employment through 610,000 sq ft of proposed new offices, taking advantage of the city’s ongoing drive to improve and promote connectivity via additional tram extensions to Five Ways and beyond.

Druid’s Heath, a predominantly residential part of the city that was delivered in the 1960s has been earmarked by Birmingham City Council and the Homes and Communities Agency for a substantial redevelopment. With 2,630 homes it is a substantial residential area within the city, but one that has represents a significant regeneration opportunity to improve the quality of the City’s housing stock over the next 10-15 years.

Centrally, there will be further development of the Snow Hill area, including the expansion of the existing Colmore Business District, transforming the area into a world-class public transport interchange backed by over 2.1 million sq ft of new offices, 4,000 residential units and something in the region of 10,000 new jobs. At the centre will be a redeveloped Snow Hill train station, replicating the catalytic effect already seen at New Street Station.

Plans for Martineau Galleries, the strategic 6.5 acre site sitting between Birmingham Curzon and the CBD are expected to see the light of day soon, following the site’s acquisition into sole ownership by Hammerson and could well supply over 2 million sq ft of commercial space and circa 1,000 residential units.

A new 10 acre Life Sciences Campus near the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Selly Oak, to the south of the city, has recently been sold to the QE and where construction will begin shortly, with planning consent already in place for 375,000 sq ft of life science related accommodation.

To the north, the release of 175 acres of land from the Green Belt at Peddimore has already started the ball rolling in the creation of one of the most significant industrial and logistics developments in the region, capable of supporting approximately 3 million sq ft of commercial floorspace.

Additionally 6,000 additional homes are planned with integrated facilities and community centres as the single largest future provision of housing over the next decade within the Birmingham conurbation.

We’ve come a long way from the city that many would think of when they hear the name Birmingham.  There has been a key shift in sentiment whereby locals are now increasingly proud of their City, its achievements, what if offices business, visitors and residents alike.  The pipeline of key projects will ensure this rejuvenated pride continues to grow over the next decade to further enhance Birmingham’s burgeoning reputation as a great City on the world stage.

View GVA’s report here: Evolving Cities: The Changing Face of Birmingham 


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