Time to look at the big picture

For nearly a decade now the market in commercial property has gone through its highs and very lows but now finally we really appear to be seeing not only strong shoots but real growth. With the most recent announcements in Birmingham we need to look at the bigger picture and the future of our town and its surroundings.

Birmingham has now announced a handful of plans for major developments including the demolition of the Nat West Tower in the city Centre with replacement by a new exciting office and mixed use development. Birmingham City Council have announced the impending sale of Grand Central – the replacement of New Street Shopping Centre, now that the new station approaches completion and some 80% of the new retail units are let including the major flagship store for John Lewis. Close by around the markets area the announcement of a new area for the city to be known as Birmingham Smithfield where the wholesale markets will be cleared to make way for a new £500 million 34 acre family area for leisure, residential and markets, creating 1000 new homes and 3000 new jobs. Finally the long awaited redevelopment of Paradise Circus with the removal of the old library and conservatoire and replacement with a new business district linking the middle of the city with the International Convention Centre and Brindleyplace.

This is an enormous series of steps for the City of Birmingham and we should not be left behind – it is time to tackle our Town Centre and the ring road and breathe new life into the High Street.

With the development of the Crown Centre and other sites within the town including King Edwards College, the New Premier Inn and Brewers Fayre, the bus station/transit hub and the Lion Medical Centre are a very good start but we need to work with the authorities to enrich the experience of shoppers, visitors and for the people who work and live in the town centre.

With a large number of vacant retails units and space on upper floors available, there is an opportunity for more specialist retails shops and conversion of the upper parts to create residential accommodation for key workers and those who like to live in the Centre of the town. Plans have also been revealed to convert part of the Old Library into superb urban apartments with office and other uses, again demonstrating how we can all work together to improve life in Stourbridge.

Lower High Street has worked well as a mixed use area with a good mix of residential houses and flats. We will shortly be marketing the former Savoy Cinema site which is destined for mixed use including potential residential and will improve Lower High Street and Crown Lane with its major frontage to the ring road and immediately adjacent to the Crown Centre development.

We need to look forward with confidence and anticipation for our town and the services it provides to its people and those who work and visit.

We are seeing an increase in the number of new business startups including both retail and offices and we need to do more to encourage more business and help improve and expand the businesses we already have.

The Bank of England’s summary of business conditions for March 2015 reports the housing market shows signs of a pickup in activity since the start of the year, with a number of our estate agents and ourselves seeing modest increases in new instructions to sell and viewings. Activity had remained weaker than a year ago in some areas, which some can be attributed to shortages in the available stock of properties for sale. Overall, housing supply and demand was now seen to be more balanced. The rental market had continued to grow strongly, supporting steady growth in buy-to-let activity.

Business investment intentions has stabilised and indicated a moderate increase in capital expenditure over the coming twelve months. Intentions remained stronger among services companies than for manufacturing businesses, often reflecting plans to increase spending on existing or new premises. Some non-food retailers had become more confident on the back of sustained demand growth, and were looking to invest in logistics and distribution and store renovation, contrasting with decisions by some supermarkets to cut back their plans for new stores. Manufacturers’ investment plans pointed to modest growth in 2015, often focusing on efficiency rather than capacity growth.

Consumer price inflation had fallen further for goods and forecasted to remain so for the foreseeable future has added to the level of confidence. This all bodes well for us to now look positively on how we can physically and economically improve our town and the area within which we live and work.

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