Courting Birmingham (and beyond)
Whilst recent inward investment missions arranged by the city have focused on North America, a Birmingham property development firm has instead looked to the Far East - and predicts a quarter of its business will come from China within the next three years.
Court Collaboration, which manages a portfolio of property worth £35m, most recently secured the funding for its Beneficial Building project by Paradise Circus.
The business' Chinese relationship was struck following visits to Guangzhou, Hanzhou and Shanghai made by the firm’s founder Anthony McCourt in January 2012.
McCourt said: “Birmingham naturally has far more to offer Chinese investors than other cities such as Bristol or Manchester due to our advanced manufacturing prowess. Banks and private financiers from various regions see firms such as Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation putting major investment into Longbridge which gives them confidence to look at complementary safe investment opportunities such as property.
“The opportunities to do business with China are serious. We have an ever-increasing Chinese student population attracted by our world-class universities and sister links with Chinese cities which means there is a pathway ready-paved to begin discussions for investment.
McCourt qualified as a commercial development solicitor with Wragge & Co in 2007, but left law in 2008 to join the developer responsible for The Cube - just as the first wave of the credit crunch hit. The firm entered administration, but McCourt was kept on as co-director to lead the mixed-use scheme to completion by Lloyds Banking Group.
“Helping guide a project like The Cube in such uncompromisingly tough operating conditions taught me an incredible amount,” said McCourt. “It really tests your mettle.”
However, McCourt believes, the foundations are laid for us to see recovery in the sector: “The unlocking of funding for major capital projects such as Paradise Forum helps to drive confidence throughout the sector.
“Court Collaboration is a small company, but we have big ambitions. We are working to create some fantastic spaces and in doing so we are helping to create investment and jobs. The future holds more of the same.”
Fact file: Beneficial Building
Birmingham’s first ever pre-cast concrete building, built more than 40 years ago.
Was HSBC’s headquarters in the city. Fell into administration in 2008.
Planning permission granted for a new 137-bedroom hotel, 53 serviced apartments and leisure and hospitality space.
Currently undergoing strip-back, ready for internal build to commence this Autumn.
Will create 100 new jobs, with at least 50 of those promised for young unemployed people.
Astbury Hall in the spotlight
Development work on a £40m leisure scheme at Astbury Hall, owned by former Judas Priest guitarist KK Downing, is due to commence on site at the end of the summer under a joint venture agreement.
Investment for the project has been secured by Court Collaboration from a consortium of UK and Chinese investors. The finished scheme will include a hotel, spa, holiday lodges and a Michelin-star quality restaurant.
The course, which already boasts a clubhouse and restaurant, has consent for a hotel and is zoned for leisure use.
Phase one of the development, consisting of 45 holiday homes, will begin shortly. The second phase, which includes the hotel and spa, will begin in early 2014.
Anthony McCourt said: “You could not get a more quintessentially British investment opportunity and that played well when we were seeking international backers for this development.
“We have serious interest from three hoteliers and a world-leading restaurateur – all of which is fundamental to creating a serious inward investment plan for Astbury Hall. We hope to create nearly 300 sustainable jobs for the estate and the area.”
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