How gentrification is revitalising Birmingham city centre

As millennials move into the centre of Birmingham, the city is undergoing a transformation and new residential developments are springing up at a fast pace.

October 24, 2019

Once streets in the centre of Birmingham were where people went for a night out before going home to the suburbs. 

Now they’re increasingly being transformed into desirable places where young professionals want to live and enjoy top-class amenities on their doorstep.

In areas like Brook Street, property developers are knocking down clubs and late-night bars and replacing them with mixed use schemes of apartments and upmarket restaurants.

“The pace of change is quite incredible and there’s a sense of confidence that Birmingham has real gravitas now,” says Simon Horan, JLL residential director. 

“You’ve got exclusive department store Harvey Nichols opening in the centre and brands like the Ivy joining an increasingly vibrant dining scene. It’s all adding a buzz to the city that wasn’t there only a few years ago.”

Urban living appeal

Horan says the arrival of the Berkley Group in the city has been a game-changer. Its St Joseph’s branded Snow Hill Wharf development shows the appetite for high-end apartments with amenities including a 24-hour concierge service and residents’ cinema, appealing to both investors and owner occupiers.

“If you look at Birmingham, our research shows over 70 percent of people who live in the city centre are under-35,” says Horan. “They want convenience, they want plenty of options for their leisure time and they want on-demand services. That means they want to live close to where they work and want appealing restaurants and amenities nearby.”

And with demand for the city centre lifestyle rising, they could soon be getting additional neighbours as more people opt to move in.

Building skywards

More developers are building skywards to house Birmingham’s growing urban population. Moda’s £184 million Broad Street development will be 42-storeys high and offer hotel-style amenities and a 200 metre running track, while the planned One Eastside, residential tower, is set to rise to 51-storeys high. It will become the city’s tallest building, eclipsing the BT Tower.

“Buildings will become taller over the next five to ten years,” says Horan. “We’re also seeing developments being built with different markets in mind. Developers want to spread risk and introduce elements of their schemes as Build to Rent, while other phases could be targeted towards owner-occupiers.”

Developments could also evolve to target different demographics as city centre living takes hold.

“While the focus is very much on millennials, I think we’ll start to see more three-bedroom apartments built with the over-50s in mind as the city has a strong cultural offer with its art galleries and renowned Birmingham Symphony Orchestra alongside The Hippodrome which is a world-class theatre venue.”

And it’s not just new-build developments that would be vying for a slice of the market with old buildings also being given a new lease of life. Traditional red-brick warehouses in the Jewellery Quarter, for example, have been converted into sought-after split-level duplex apartments.

Pace of change

Big-name employers such as HSBC, Deutsche Bank and HMRC are also keen to become part of Birmingham’s revitalised core, attracted by the local talent pool and the mix of high level amenities on offer providing a better quality of life than being recorded in the south east.

Birmingham’s universities produce around 52,000 students a year and civic leaders want them to stay on after graduating. As such, it’s 20-year masterplan puts the emphasis on jobs and creating an attractive, walkable city centre. The key Paradise scheme, for example, is reimagining the heart of the civic quarter with offices, retail, restaurants and public spaces.

Yet as the city gears up to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022, more work is still needed to bolster its transformation from a key regional hub into a dynamic global city.  

There’s still a way to go to make the city’s transport system more inter-connected, says Horan. However, there are some welcoming signs; Birmingham’s Metro system is being extended and if the proposed HS2 high-speed rail link is given the go-ahead after a Government review, journey times to London will be cut to 49 minutes.

“Birmingham has a lot to look forward to,” says Horan. “As its regeneration plans become reality and new developments showcase modern city centre living, the city will only gain traction with investors, corporates and skilled workers looking for a high-quality urban lifestyle outside London.”