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Jewellery Quarter Rents Sparkle, But Are They Too High?

Birmingham jewellery quarter

Is Birmingham City Council about to undermine the city's most successful city fringe commercial market?

Office rents in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter are "skyrocketing", leaving them out of reach for many small businesses that have made the area the unique creative mix it is. And according to one local observer, council policy is partly to blame.

Jewellery Quarter-based Siddall Jones Property Consultancy founder Ed Siddall Jones said office rents in the area have risen from £10-£12/SF to up to £17/SF in the last year, making them unaffordable for startup and smaller businesses. Now some floorspace is being let at even higher rents.

“We recently let two 500 SF and two 900 SF units above Folium restaurant in Caroline Street, just off St Paul’s Square, at £19/SF, including service charge. We could have let them 10 times over,” Siddall Jones said.

“Incubation space for indigenous industries in particular is nonexistent. This threatens the very character of this unique area. Graduates from the internationally renowned School of Jewellery are among those hard pressed to find premises from which to make and sell their wares.”

Local businesses are also concerned that the off-loading of a number of properties owned by Birmingham City Council will exacerbate the problem. Premises in the Vyse Street triangle, Caroline Street, Pitsford Street and Summer Hill Terrace have been put up for sale by the local authority.

“The council is keen to cash in on the Jewellery Quarter’s cachet, but its policy is confusing and contradictory," Siddall Jones said. "On the one hand it is selling off much-needed smaller units from its own portfolio, whilst deterring developers from building out some of the larger sites in the district on the grounds that these currently provide employment. The reality is there is no requirement from large-scale manufacturers or heavy industry for sites in the Jewellery Quarter.”

Protecting sites for outdated or nonexistent uses is helping to make the new development supply crisis even more severe, Siddall Jones said, who pointed to the AE Harris and Mr Tyre sites.

“The businesses have jointly almost 200K SF of premises spread across 8 acres of land yet employ fewer than 70 people between them. It’s madness when you consider the requirements coming across my desk every day. Whilst these jobs will move, the reality is many more will be created when new homes are built and new retail and office space is created,” he said.

“Whilst we must retain the area’s heritage and character — which is very much part of its charm and draw — it’s no good preserving it in aspic. We must acknowledge that times have changed and the jobs market is very different now.”