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News Release

Birmingham

The transformation of Birmingham's Colmore Row


Birmingham, 15th November 2016 – Jon Carmalt, director (office agency) at JLL's Birmingham office, reflects on the past and looks to the future, to see how the city is refreshing one of its major property assets.

It's some 140 years since Colmore Row became the city's best-known thoroughfare; as the imposing Grand Hotel came out of the ground at one end - just as the equally impressive Council House was being constructed at the other.

The last decade has seen the area 'stretched' in both directions, with the 14-storey The Colmore Building rising from the rubble of the Post & Mail building, and the giant £500m Paradise mixed-use scheme slowly taking shape where the Central Library once stood.

Carmalt, who has been observing Birmingham's office market since the mid-90s, believes an array of influences have now come together to take Colmore Row back to its heyday, making it once again a prime property asset of interest to investors and institutional funds, here and overseas.

“In this era, many investors are agnostic about different countries, and locations within those countries,” he says. “They mainly focus on the quality of assets and the likely returns. Above all else, they want to identify cities where there is a long-term strategic vision which will help grow the value of their assets.

“Developers can only do so much, because they will typically be focusing on a single scheme, so it's crucial that the public sector really buys into what they are looking to achieve, and then commits its resources to the mix.

”Once the public and private sectors are working in harmony, it's remarkable just how much progress can be made, which in turn makes telling the Birmingham story - as a global investment destination - a much easier sell than it once was.”

Carmalt sees parallels between the transformation of New Street Station, and the present renaissance of the Colmore Row district.

“Both were originally a series of impressive buildings in key areas of the city centre, but as the years passed, it was clear they both needed 'refreshing' to be fit for purpose,” he suggests.

“When the Grand was built, Snow Hill was Birmingham's main train station, but decades later, when Brindleyplace was created, it became the desirable alternative business area of the city centre. The Grand closed, the Post & Mail went to Fort Dunlop, and Colmore Row became so busy with traffic that it was difficult to navigate.

“Now though, Hortons' Estate have done a wonderful job of restoring the Grand, everyone is waiting to see the new-look 55 Colmore Row when IM Properties completes its £30m refurbishment next year, and The Colmore Building has become a landmark to anchor the far end of the street. Indeed The Colmore Building has set the new standard for office accommodation in Birmingham, with unrivalled occupier amenities coupled with a platinum Wired Score rating demonstrating that it is best in class in terms of occupier connectivity and broadband and telecoms infrastructure.”

When work began on the Grand and the Council House in the mid-1870s, the boundary between municipal ownership and private development was very clear; but now Carmalt identifies the relationship between public and private sector as the catalyst for Colmore Row's transformation.

“Paradise is being delivered by a public-private jv, which for years would have been unthinkable. We've also seen developers adopt much broader strategic visions about their assets. It's no longer just about rents and a very narrow ROI calculation, they place much more value on the nearby public realm, and are demonstrating a willingness to contribute financially to such initiatives.” he says.

“I was delighted to see the Colmore BID proposals for the area around Snow Hill, both the Station Square and the road layout. Just stopping traffic from turning right off Livery Street into Colmore Row will make such a positive difference, although there is more to be done.

“The proposals are ambitious, and will represent investment of around £10m, but although they're still out for public consultation, I believe the funds are there to be committed. After 55 Colmore Row and the Grand developments complete and the Nat West Tower demolition finishes, I consider that improving the public realm around Snow Hill will be a further stage of the area's transformation.”