The man behind a major landmark development says the “huge momentum” built up in Birmingham’s city centre made him act now.
James Howarth, of developer Sterling Property Ventures, said he had been considering the ‘bomb site’ on Great Charles Street for many years, but acted after being convinced strong growth is on the way.
Plans will be submitted later this year for up to 500,000 sq ft of office accommodation, shops and a large car park, in a development being named Great Charles Square.
It marks a return to the start for Mr Howarth, who parked on the site on his very first day at work as a graduate surveyor at King Sturge in the city.
He said: “We have a huge degree of momentum, which really sets Birmingham up so occupiers can see what they are investing in. With the LEP and the enterprise zone, all of a sudden we have got an impressive model where we have got local authorities and the private sector working hand-in-hand.
“That is one thing that has really changed from when I first started.”
He added: “There is a real ground swell of support to drive this forward.
“Paradise Circus is wonderful but there is a lot of work that has to go in first. The great thing about Great Charles Square is that it is not in competition with Paradise and it is going to happen in advance of that. Schemes that are successful can help other schemes.”
Mr Howarth said the development, which is a joint venture with Birmingham City Council, would be in the form of a multi-phase scheme, kicking off with the car park.
He said he was keen to push the project forward quickly, but it could take as long as five years to come to fruition.
It is the first major scheme announced since the start of the city centre enterprise zone, and Mr Howarth said the new entrance to Snowhill Station off Great Charles Street was “a game changer”.
He said Deutsche Bank – which has increased its employment in the city from dozens to more htan 1,500 in recent years – showed there was appetite to move here.
He said: “We are not going to hang around with this – we are in the course of discussing planning and want to move straight on to developing on site.
“The first phase is the car park, because there is already a car lot there and people are going to need somewhere to park, but at that point we will be in discussions with occupiers.”
He added: “Look at Deutsche Bank at Brindleyplace – something similar could happen here. If one of the big banks wanted to look outside the capital, then they have got a site here and a rationale to build.”
Mr Howarth, who is originally from the North West, has worked as a property agent in Birmingham for many years.
However, it all began in this very site off Great Charles street in 1993.
He explained: “We have been looking at this scheme for many years.
“I started my career in Birmingham, so this site is quite personal to me. I actually parked up here on my first day at work.
“I always struggled to understand why the city core couldn’t accommodate it – in a city with lots of things happening all the time.”