One to Watch 2014: Birmingham
As a large regional city with a central location, Birmingham is well-placed to take advantage of returning economic confidence in 2014. We take a look at why itΓÇÖs one of our ones to watch over the next twelve months.
The Big City Plan ΓÇô a blueprint for success?
Even a flying visit to the second city will tell you that there are big changes underway. Driving this development is BirminghamΓÇÖs Big City Plan ΓÇô an extensive plan to provide substantial (and sustainable) economic growth over the course of the next two decades which is expected to generate 40,000 jobs and bring a ┬ú2.8 billion boost to the economy.
The Big City Plan encompasses a wide range of projects, including the new Library of Birmingham which opened towards the end of 2013 and whose bold architecture embodies the cityΓÇÖs ambitions for dramatic change.
The libraryΓÇÖs relocation has also cleared the way for another part of the Big City Plan to get underway, as its former location on Paradise Circus is to be redeveloped. At a cost of ┬ú450m, this will include demolishing the 1960s buildings and replacing them with contemporary office space, as well as opening up the area to provide improved access to the rest of the city centre.
Other developments within the Big City Plan include the forthcoming ┬ú35m Digital Plaza and the recently completed ┬ú500m Snowhill office complex.
Building a better connected city
BirminghamΓÇÖs transport infrastructure is also in the midst of an overhaul. One of the main draws of the city has long been its central location, with London, Manchester and Leeds all reachable within two hours.
HS2 ΓÇô the high-speed rail route which will connect it with London, Manchester and Leeds ΓÇô is set to reduce these journey times further still. In particular, the journey time to London via HS2 will be 49 minutes, making it quicker to travel to the capital from Birmingham than from traditional commuter locations like Oxford (57 minutes) and Tunbridge Wells (55 minutes).
New Street Station ΓÇô BirminghamΓÇÖs flagship station ΓÇô is also undergoing a revamp to create a modern, efficient gateway to the city. The team behind the transformation believes that it will increase the cityΓÇÖs appeal for inward investors, bringing significant benefits for the business community.
Meanwhile, the runway extension at Birmingham Airport is on schedule to open in spring this year, enabling the airport to expand its offering of international flights. Long-haul flights to New York and Dhaka are already planned, making Birmingham a better connected city internationally as well as nationally.
A new look at Birmingham
As the new Birmingham takes shape, the city may already be beginning to see the results. As officebroker CEO Chris Meredith pointed out in his 2014 office predictions, he believes that major developments like New Street Station and HS2 have ΓÇ£caused certain businesses to re-evaluate where they are located in the UK.ΓÇ¥
Meanwhile, new officebroker statistics on BirminghamΓÇÖs serviced office market reveal that the second city showed positive signs in 2013. The city saw a 45% increase in the number of businesses taking serviced offices from January to November 2013 compared with the same period in 2012. As a comparison, across the UK as a whole, the average increase for key cities (excluding Central London) was 10%.
On the map: key locations to look out for
Key business locations at the heart of BirminghamΓÇÖs Big City Plan:
- Colmore Business District: The site of the ┬ú500m Snowhill office development which opened last year, providing Grade A space for predominantly corporate tenants in the B2B finance and services sector. Current tenants include KPMG, Barclays and law firm Wragge & Co.
- Custard Factory Quarter: Part of the Digbeth Enterprise Zone, this is a vibrant mix of small and large creative companies, artists and vintage retailers, all housed in colourful buildings. ASOS announced plans to move here in 2013, confirming the quarterΓÇÖs status as a leading creative and digital media destination.
- Innovation Birmingham Campus: The cityΓÇÖs hub for tech businesses with an incubator for startups. It was created in 2013 when the Aston Science Park site was divided into two separate specialist hubs to better serve the needs of the tech and digital industries.
- Paradise Circus: Currently in the planning phase with construction scheduled to start in 2015. When the first new office buildings are completed in 2017, they will offer Grade A office space with large floorplates in a core location between the Central Business District and Brindleyplace.
What do you think of BirminghamΓÇÖs prospects for 2014? Would you base your business in the second city?