Taming The Beast: Has The Curse Of Baskerville House Been Lifted?
Some deals are a nightmare, some developments are a horror story — but only Birmingham's Baskerville House seemed to be cursed. Five times the curse struck down ideas.
The Grade II-listed Art Deco building is now on the market for £70M as owners Hermes offload the block they bought in 2013 for £40M, Business Desk reports. Approached by Bisnow, Hermes declined to comment on market speculation.
The last 20 years show how the property market's ups and downs hounded Baskerville House — and how Hermes eventually lifted the curse.
1997-2003: Your Reservation Has Been Cancelled
A bit more than 20 years ago Birmingham City Council started pondering the sale of what was then 84K SF of council offices. Hoteliers including Sheraton were said to be interested in a block reported to be worth £3M. By 2000, the hotel idea had planning permission, Radisson were lined up, and the new owners were Norwich-based Targetfollow. But the plan moved slowly and in 2003, in the midst of a flourishing economy, it began to seem that what Birmingham needed was not another hotel but lots more offices. The hotel plan was ditched, and replaced by a £50M proposal to refurbish the building as 220K SF of offices.
2003-2005: Your Book Has Been Returned
Baskerville promised huge floorplates — the holy grail of Noughties office development — and work on site was due to begin any day. And then the curse struck: legal action between Targetfollow and Jersey-based Kilcarne Holdings over sharing the profits landed in the High Court. By November 2004 the case was over but the delay gave a chance for Birmingham City Council to decided Baskerville House might make a fantastic location for a new city library, a plan that was a lot cheaper than building a new one. A year later in October 2005 the council changed its mind. RIP the Baskerville House library plan.
2005-2006: Investment Deal Vanishes
The legal battle with Kilcarne turned out to be far from dead: 2005 saw an appeal, which Targetfollow won. Meanwhile the U.K. economy was heating up fast and the property market was sucking in foriegn investment, and Targetfollow hoped to benefit, putting Baskerville on the market for around £80M. Dutch giant Wereldhave got close to a deal but then ... the curse struck again. The deal was off.
2006-2010: Thinking Very Very Big
What stymied the sale was — in part — the realisation that the entire 11-acre site could be a massive office development opportunity. Architects were appointed to masterplan the site, which could see 1M SF of offices, a skyscraper and 10 buildings under the branding Baskerville Wharf. By 2008 the city council agreed to give Targetfollow exclusive development rights over the entire site. Everything looked promising until the curse struck again.
2010-2012: Moving Very Very Slowly
Targetfollow fell into administration, and Baskerville House was offered for sale at a price of £55M. But this was not a good time to sell a large regional lot, and two years pass unfruitfully. In late 2012 the price is dropped to £42.5M — and at this price, Hermes bites.
2013-2018: Lifting The Curse
Hermes refurbished and repositioned the building — and it works. As the economy pulled out of recession so Baskerville's office offering comes into its own. In 2016 they secure an 85K SF letting to Network Rail. Fast forward to today ... and it seems like the curse has been lifted.