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Sit up straight Birmingham and learn a lesson from Bilbao

March 11, 2014Article by Ray Withers

For those of you just like me, winding down from a busy start to the week on the sofa last night, you might have seen the superb new TV series on BBC2 from Evan Davis. Mind the Gap: London v the Rest explores the economic forces at play across Britain with last night’s episode featuring the nation’s second city by population, Birmingham.

As you may have read in my previous blog posts, I am Birmingham born and bred having grown up in the Halesowen area so I’m always interested to find out what’s going on in my home city. In last night’s episode, Evan Davies considered Birmingham as a rival to London in terms of an economic hub, charting it’s progression from being at the heart of the industrial revolution through to the city’s transformation into a high tech business centre and Destination of the Future.

One point he did highlight and with which I agree, is how Birmingham’s changing architecture has played a key role in transforming the city. Davies looked at how the Spanish city of Bilbao reinvented itself in 1997 off the back of the iconic Guggenheim Museum of modern and contemporary art and drew comparisons to the equally revolutionary architecture present within Birmingham today.

The landmark Selfridges store which lies in the Bullring Shopping Centre, at the heart of Birmingham, was designed by architecture firm Future Systems and features a curved facade wrapping around the corner of Moor Street and Park Street. The facade comprises 15,000 anodised aluminium discs mounted on a blue background and was at first thought far too radical and futuristic for this industrial city. However when it opened in 2003 the reception both from the local community and critics alike was overwhelmingly positive with the building winning the RIBA Award for Architecture in 2004 as well as a string of other design accolades.

If you look around Birmingham today, as I did only last week with the team, you will see numerous other examples of modern architecture. From the new Central Library, now the largest in Europe, which opened late year, to the transformation of the iconic Rotunda building from office space to luxury residential apartments, the canal system around the Gas Street Basin and Brindley Place, the Mailbox and The Cube which offers stunning views across the city, the skyline is vastly different from when I was a boy. Indeed enjoying a beer from the top of The Cube at the end of our visit last week, I felt that I could almost be in Hong Kong, Singapore or Bangkok such was the night vista!

And development continues at a pace in Birmingham with the demand for some 80,000 new homes over the coming years fuelling the construction and property sectors. Take our latest buy-to-let opportunity for example, located in the prime Five Ways area of Birmingham. On our visit last week the team and I toured the landmark 20 storey building at the top of Hagley Road, currently designated as office space, which will be transformed into 271 luxury residential apartments by September 2015.

Due to the superb location of this building and the high quality of the planned redevelopment, these apartments will become new icons of the 21st century Birmingham skyline, just perfect for first time buyers and young professionals. Indeed such has been the popularity of this project that already half of the apartments have been sold although we do have an off-market allocation still available from just £95,000 so get in touch today to find out more.

Author

Ray Withers

Ray has over 17 years’ experience in the international property market and bought his own first international property investment back in 2002. Aside from running Property Frontiers, Ray has been involved in residential, hotel, student and commercial property investment and development in both the UK and overseas and co-wrote "Where to Buy Property Abroad - An Investor's Guide". As Founder and Trustee of the Frontiers Foundation, Ray is directly involved with many of its projects to ensure they have a direct and tangible impact in individual communities across the globe. He is passionate about property, travelling, scouting out new opportunities and finding time to spend with his young family.
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