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Inside The Minds Of The People Writing Birmingham's COVID Property Market Recovery Plan


Birmingham’s new coronavirus Economic Recovery Strategy begins six weeks of public consultation on Monday 5 October, the final stage in a process that is intended to reboot the city’s property market.

Highlights include a 6M SF office scheme at Curzon Street and a root-and-branch rethink of city commercial floorspace.

However, documents published ahead of the consultation reveal the thought processes of those involved in writing the plan.

A list of last-minute amendments was submitted to a meeting with council leader Ian Ward as part of the formal approval of the start of consultation. 

These included removing an embarrassing cover picture of a tower crane with “John Lewis” on top, because John Lewis has decided to close its 247K SF Birmingham store.

The author of the amendments also asked a question being asked by many in Birmingham’s property market, seeking clarification on the current status of Lendlease’s joint venture with Birmingham City Council to redevelop the 42-acre Smithfield wholesale markets site.

“Generally on photos — is there anything less glossy — for example East Birmingham — less polished places,” the document added.

The text was also amended to beef up warnings about a no-deal Brexit, and to remove two references to the council’s Route to Zero future city plan, which may suggest a change in its status.

The full list of corrections can be read here.

The heart of Birmingham: Victoria Square

The strategy document itself proposes a major rethink of the commercial heart of Birmingham.

“Given the profound threat to what is one of our major economic assets we will establish a working group to undertake a review of the city centre’s office and retail sector, and given their close economic relationship, the leisure and food and beverage sectors; in doing so we will engage meaningfully with a range of stakeholders, including Business Improvement Districts, developers and businesses to understand their short, medium and long-term needs,” the strategy said.

“Outcomes from the review will inform options for the future transformation of the Council’s Central Administrative Buildings estate … Our land and asset ownership can be used strategically to support development and attract the flows of capital through proactive partnership working and promotion of investment opportunities.”

The strategy also draws attention to the Curzon masterplan, which could provide up to 6M SF of new workspace and 4,000 new homes. “We are keen to do more to accelerate what are ambitious plans for the area," the document said.

The strategy document said the council will work with Bruntwood and Aston University to develop the Knowledge Quarter’s potential.