Last year we witnessed the first stages of the ‘Renaissance’ of Birmingham. The ambitious infrastructure projects of the past few years have sparked a wave of new investment in the city and the wider Midlands Region, giving the area a huge boost to confidence and sense of purpose. Birmingham is witnessing a genuine renaissance. The opening of Grand Central is the most significant evidence of the transformation that is taking place but is also symbolic of the scale, ambition and confidence the city now has. The huge atrium at the centre of the scheme brings light to where there was once darkness and the city now has the ‘gateway’ it deserves. BIRMINGHAM FINALLY PACKS A RETAIL PUNCH New retailers including Jo Malone, White Stuff and Joules complement the existing retail offer, with the food and beverage mix filling the gap that the Bull Ring has been unable to offer. Moreover, the new John Lewis, and the relocated and much larger Harvey Nicholls store in Brockton Capital’s completely refurbished Mailbox means that Birmingham is the only regional city with all five department stores outside of central London. The announcement that Apple will be occupying the former Waterstones Grade II Listed 22,000 sq ft Horton’s Estates building on New Street and the acquisition by Primark of the former Pavillions shopping centre for one of their largest stores outside London is testament to the growing strength of the city’s retail offer. BANKS CHANGE THE SHAPE OF THE OFFICE MARKET Grade A office supply is down to less than 200,000 sq ft with continued occupier demand and an acute shortage of space. This mix sees a resurgence of investor appetite for risk, creating a market place that has sprung into life with multiple speculative schemes underway. Perhaps the most significant development was HSBC announcing the relocation of its Retail Banking Head Quarters into at least one building of 212,000 sq ft at Miller’s Arena Central scheme. Work on the foundations is underway and occupation is anticipated for early March 2017. Furthermore, the demolition of the former NatWest Tower at 103 Colmore Row by Sterling Property Ventures in a joint venture with Rockspring and Paradise is now underway. Meanwhile, the extensive refurbishment of 55 Colmore Row by IM Properties, 2 Cornwall Street by Bruntwood and 1 Newhall Street by Ardstone is progressing. The growing strength of the financial services sector has taken employment levels to 24,600, which is over 5.2% of the city’s total employment and together with a rapidly growing digital industry the rebalancing of the economy away from manufacturing continues. NEW CONNECTIONS The extension of the Metro from Snowhill to New Street is nearing completion and we can look forward to its continuation towards Fiveways, and the new Seven Capital residential quarter. However, all eyes are beginning to focus on the activity around Curzon Street, the location of Birmingham’s HS2 station. Preparation for its development will begin later this year, although we already have the benefit of HS2’s UK HQ in 2 Snowhill and the National High Speed College which will be located in Eastside. Grand Central has demonstrated the art of the possible, Curzon Street is a cleared site that will lead to the comprehensive regeneration of Digbeth, an opportunity we have to plan for and manage carefully to ensure we maximise the economic benefits. There has never been a better time to do business in Birmingham and the city’s skyline is and will continue to change dramatically over the course of 2016 and beyond.