Considering the amount of development ongoing and planned for Birmingham, is the city moving in the right direction?

James CubittHead of Colliers Birmingham Office

“I think it is fair to say that Birmingham is definitely moving in the right direction. Current developments such as the first phase of Paradise and Three Snowhill are nearing completion and have changed the appearance of the city and its skyline. My previous concern was how do we build on this success. However, I was in Digbeth yesterday and was struck by the enormous scale of the former Wholesale Markets site that has been cleared to facilitate the Birmingham Smithfield regeneration scheme. I challenge anybody to find such a sizeable and exciting development opportunity so close to the centre of any other regional city. Our development pipeline is looking positive for years to come.

I am also struck by the positive sentiment towards the city from investors and developers from outside the region. On my trips to London and other cities I regularly hear expressions such as “on fire” and “red hot” in relation to Birmingham’s property market – quite a contrast to perceptions in years past. Pleasingly we have seen a lot of interest in the city from ‘Build to Rent’ operators, attracted by the city’s youthful population and excellent quality of life. These developers are looking at schemes in what were traditionally less fashionable areas of the city which is fantastic for regeneration.

I look forward to discussing these topics and more with as many peers and friends as possible at Bisnow Birmingham State of the Market on 1 May. See you there!”

The offices sector in Birmingham is undergoing a lot of change, can you comment on the expected impact of HS2, the growth of serviced and flexible workspace, and how to attract foreign investment to the sector over the next few years?

Richard Williams, Head of Colliers Birmingham City Centre Agency

“There’s somewhat of a perfect storm brewing at present in terms of the disruptors invoking change upon the office sector in Birmingham. Consider current rapid advances in technology, increasing prevalence of the ‘green’ and ‘well-being’ initiatives, political turmoil, and how these affect the changing requirements of businesses and their workplaces. When you combine these factors with the wholesale transformation of Birmingham’s public transport infrastructure, you start to appreciate it’s almost the full spectrum that we’re contending with and adapting to. At the heart of this unprecedented period of change for us is HS2.  Once operational, the impact it will have on occupational demand in our office market will be positive and primarily two-fold.

Firstly in terms of volume - we’ll see the trend of north-shoring intensify with Birmingham becoming an increasingly compelling alternative to certain London sub-markets, particularly so when it comes to locating administrative and business support functions. As the appeal to live in the region also builds amongst London workers, due to the improved commute and the relative affordability of house prices here, naturally in the medium to long term this will help to build the local talent pool. As a result of this Birmingham will surely become an increasingly viable location for businesses requiring skilled professionals.

Secondly, we anticipate a gravitational pull of demand towards Curzon Street station for businesses who require speed and ease of connectivity with the capital. The evolution of the landscape is already creating new opportunity as the city core expands. Inevitably, increased opportunity coupled with a swell in demand will drive domestic and foreign investment over the coming years.”

Can too much development be a bad thing for Birmingham? Is it possible to maintain the city’s character amidst so much transformation?

Nick Hammond, Director, Advisory & Restructuring

“I think it is definitely possible to maintain and indeed enhance the city’s character amidst the various transformational developments that we are seeing.  Whether it is Paradise, Snowhill, the Library or Smithfield (like them or not), they all build on our great city’s legacies, bring a fresh new vibrancy and ultimately deliver brilliant spaces for people to use.

This is also true beyond the City Core.  The volume and calibre of new residential development and regeneration projects all around the city is truly impressive and unrelenting. I would argue that these also maintain and build upon the city’s character. For example, those developments underway in the Jewellery Quarter, a largely Listed Conservation Area, have a different feel and charm to them than those within Eastside and Southside, where there is greater scope to deliver large scale placemaking for the city’s burgeoning population.

The challenge of course, shared by public and private sector stakeholders, is to ensure that development recognises and enhances the existing characteristics of a location in order to deliver truly great places that will last the test of time. There are various important aspects to get right here – not least of which are funding, planning and ownership.  Equally, taking a long term view which considers the macro and micro perspectives, rather than focusing on short-term gain.

The pipeline of commercial and residential development in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands Conurbation is staggering. However, it is vital to ensure that the way in which we deliver, own and use these properties is effective and sustainable in order to protect and continue to enhance the depth of character that Birmingham offers.”