This is an article by our Editor Helen Duval
Anyone who has driven anywhere near the centre of Birmingham in recent months will have no doubt built in considerable extra time for the journey to accommodate the locked solid traffic jams. The entire city has seen consistent redevelopment over the last few years, despite setbacks through the demise of Carillion, and the trend is set to continue as the UK’s second city gears up to host the Commonwealth Games.
This enormous regeneration project has created a new structural vision for the city with hotels, housing and high-rise living all currently due to be completed in time for the opening ceremony in 2022. It will be a far cry from the outdated and somewhat limited scope Birmingham has endured over previous decades.
In Perry Barr, an area that was previously part of the Birmingham City University campus, there will be a new athlete’s village and better travel connections into the city centre – though if you listen to the taxi drivers they will ‘believe it when they see it’. However, this £550 million investment will be adapted into around 1400 homes once the event is over, which is expected to be a major boost for an area that had become run down.
Likewise in one of Birmingham’s southern areas, Sandwell, there will be a new aquatic centre built especially for the host city to cater for the swimming and diving competitions. This £60 million investment is expected to be turned into a community leisure centre once the games have finished. However, investors already have spotted the potential of Britain’s second city beyond the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Sandwell, will see the opening of the Shireland CBSO non-fee paying school which is due to open in September 2021. Described as a world first, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra has teamed up with Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust as part of its centenary celebrations.
Birmingham’s Symphony Hall – will be dedicating space to community arts that is hoped will be in the same class as the Southbank Centre.
Beyond this there is still more to come for the city. A couple of decades ago Prince Charles famously showed his disdain for certain architectural redevelopments there, with the new library described as “a place where books are incinerated, not kept” and the Convention Centre considered “an unmitigated disaster” by the future King.
There has been talk of £1.5 billion economic benefit post 2022 and as a consequence there are areas all over the city that have been earmarked for redevelopment. High rise urban living is proving attractive to a diverse and quite youthful population.
The transformation of Birmingham began a few years ago and already this year there has been substantial development taking place with around 20 projects already started over the last 12 months. New offices, living space and leisure facilities are all in the process of being built in time for the Commonwealth Games. As a vibrant, revitalised city it is hoped however that the level of investment will continue to grow beyond 2022.
West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, recently commented, “The vibrant culture of the UK’s most diverse region is taking visitors by surprise. With the Commonwealth Games in 2022 we can look forward to an influx of visitors hungry to discover more. By working closely with Government to target investment, we have rekindled that creative spark that is once again catching the eye of the world.”
The entire local infrastructure is changing and this is boosting the economy for construction companies.
Whilst new road and rail networks are being developed to improve transport for competitors at the Games, this is not the only focal point of the immense regeneration project.
Thanks to the HS2 high speed rail link to London due to open in 2026, a new transport hub is being built in the heart of the city. This is making Birmingham a very attractive prospect to investors thanks to the ease of accessibility not just from London but also in relation to the airport and NEC. Improved connections and faster routes to key cities across the country has resulted in investment from not just British companies but also global giants who are moving headquarters to Birmingham or setting up new UK offices.
Deutsche Bank and HSBC have made this expanding and culturally diverse city home in the UK. Global fintech company Lombard Risk Management plc, opened a new Technology Centre in Birmingham while Oxygen Finance moved their London operations to Birmingham’s Colmore Business District.
It doesn’t stop there with up and coming businesses FeeLYX, a financial analysis software provider, together with a market leading cyber defence and intelligence company already happily housed in the city centre. HM Customs & Excise will be heading there too very shortly.
With 7,620 people leaving London to move to Birmingham last year, it is fast becoming the most popular destination for Londoners in England. Back in 2015, Birmingham was considered one of the most ‘investable’ cities in the UK.
For the construction sector this will result in a positive boom for the region which will last for a good few years yet.