Birmingham is bouncing back
Last week I joined the Greater Birmingham delegation at MIPIM, the world’s largest and – arguably – most important property conference and exhibition. The event, which attracts 21,000 property professionals from 93 countries, provides one of the region’s best opportunities to match investors with our development opportunities in commercial, residential, retail and housing sectors.
Increasing confidence in the market and our own city’s prospects was reflected by the largest delegation from this area to date. The Greater Birmingham delegation comprised some 70 delegates from 33 partner organisations, including representatives from Solihull and Black Country local authorities. We had a back-to-back programme consisting of promotional events and investor discussions, with 12 presentations taking place on the Greater Birmingham stand.
We also joined forces with Greater London and Coventry at two further events, setting out the benefits of the new HS2 high speed rail network to both the region’s and the UK’s economic prosperity and connectivity. Speakers included: our own Leader, Sir Albert Bore; Sir Michael Bear, Chairman of UKTI’s Regeneration Investment Organisation; Sir Edward Lister, Deputy Mayor of London; and Andy Street, Chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP and Managing Director of John Lewis.
Our presence at MIPIM comes at a time when Birmingham and the wider region is enjoying one of our strongest and most productive periods of economic growth in recent history. The city is leading the country in terms of exports, and it is attracting more foreign direct investment and creating more start-ups than any other centre outside London. In fact, more people than ever before are leaving the capital and choosing to locate in Birmingham. It’s perhaps not surprising then that a recent PwC report placed Birmingham ahead of London – and, most encouragingly – 6th in Europe in terms of its real estate investment prospects.
So the timing was right for us to bring forward for consideration by international investors, developers and property specialists further plans to redevelop the city, making every effort to bolster our highly promising growth prospects.
We were able to showcase real delivery on the ground with commercial development schemes now well underway at Snowhill, Paradise and Arena Central. And it now looks very likely that we will be welcoming new occupiers to these ‘Grade A’ buildings sooner than some had predicted. We also launched a new Housing Prospectus for the city. Birmingham’s population will increase by 150,000 by 2031 so we needed to target developers to meet the target of 80,000 new homes, having identified some 40 major brown field sites for investment across the city.
Perhaps the highlight of the week for me, however, was the interest that the launch of “Birmingham Smithfield” created. The vision to redevelop land around the site of the current wholesale markets has the prospect of delivering over 100,000 sq. metres of floor space, 1,000 new homes and 3,000 new jobs, adding £470 million GVA to the local economy and attracting millions more visitors to the city and city region. Importantly, the vision for this development focuses on retaining the rich character and heritage of the area and the communities that occupy it. I was hugely encouraged to see the high level of investor interest in this scheme.
Notwithstanding the Smithfield buzz, the attention that High Speed 2 is attracting to the city should not be underestimated. There continues to be significant interest in our Curzon master plan and I was delighted with the enthusiastic response we received to the announcement of the experienced and highly regarded Liz Peace as Chair of the new Urban Regeneration Company for Curzon. The plans for UK Central in Solihull also attracted a great deal of interest and it’s clear that the property market is excited by the regeneration and investment opportunities that this new rail infrastructure is already bringing to the region.
This year’s MIPIM also gave us the opportunity to showcase some of the new real estate opportunities emerging outside of our city centre. Life Sciences, for example, is certainly a sector where we, as a region, have hidden our light under a bushel for too long. So, it was great to see the response from developers and investors to our plans for a new Life Sciences Campus. I sense that this will be an area of our economy which will provide a wide range of new job opportunities for our people, across a number of different disciplines, in the years ahead.
So, all in all, I think the Greater Birmingham programme of events was a great success. Our strength lies in our growing partnerships, both public and private. The range, scale and diversity of investment interest we are now enjoying, and the fact that the world is now, at last, beginning to view Birmingham as a destination of first choice, are all important factors in ensuring our economy continues to grow.
If you are interested in following up on some of the detail, the various announcements from Greater Birmingham partners which attracted a huge amount of positive attention can be found via the links below:
- The Times: Birmingham bid to avoid London mistakes
- Planning: Birmingham unveils 14-hectare city centre regeneration plan
- Property week: Plans unveiled for £500m Birmingham Smithfield project
- Building: Birmingham launches 1000-home Wholesale Markets scheme
- The Planner: £500m Birmingham regeneration plan
- CoStar: MIPIM 2015: Partners sought for £500m Birmingham Smithfield
- BBC News: Birmingham Smithfield city centre development plans unveiled
- ITV News: Council: Smithfield plans ‘will create a vibrant new destination’
- Estates Gazette: Birmingham presents £500m Smithfield development
- Business Quarter: Huge Smithfield scheme ‘will attract £500m investment’
- Retail Gazette: £500m plan will regenerate some of Birmingham
- Shanghai Daily: Program unveiled to transform Britain’s biggest wholesale market complex
- The Global Times: Program unveiled to transform Britain’s biggest wholesale market complex
- org.cn: Program unveiled to transform Britain’s biggest wholesale market complex
- ITV News: Birmingham unveils its largest-ever housing plan
- LocalGov: Birmingham reveals unprecedented housing plan
- Inside Housing: Birmingham seeks developers for 80,000 home drive
As a city we still have many challenges ahead of us, but we should not forget that Birmingham and our region are changing and people are noticing. This week I witnessed many places doing the best for their businesses and their people. But very few of them had all of the assets we have or, indeed, the momentum we are now enjoying. I sense a growing confidence in our future which will, day by day, week by week, allow us to meet our own challenges head on and, working together, make sure this place continues to be somewhere that we can all be proud of.
In the words of this week’s Birmingham Mail – Birmingham is certainly bouncing back!