Fresh hopes for a key gateway development in Birmingham have been raised with new plans submitted for a site once earmarked for the city’s first five-star hotel.
Irish developer Ballymore has presented blueprints to Birmingham City Council to build a 15-storey commercial development at Three Snowhill.
The new proposals offer 250,000 sq ft of office floorspace and include 56,000 sq ft of leisure and conference space, as well as 13,000 sq ft of shops and restaurants and 180 parking spaces.
The Sidell Gibson-designed scheme will be the tallest of the three Snowhill offices.
Snowhill was always meant to be a three-phase mixed-use scheme. Spawned in the mid-noughties at the height of the commercial property boom, it promised to deliver more than half-a-million square feet of the “best quality office space” the city had seen, apartments – and a Westin hotel.
But as One Snowhill’s occupiers made themselves at home, work came to a grinding halt on phases two and three, with just the concrete cores left standing as a monument to the credit crunch.
The concrete core for Three Snowhill stood exposed to the elements for a number of years and was eventually covered from public view by an enormous advertising hoarding.
Although permission had been given for a residential and hotel scheme in phase three, resale values for the apartments would have to rise to about £500 per sq ft for it to stack up for Ballymore. In reality it was closer to £250 in 2011.
This time work on the new building will not begin until a pre-let is secured.
Richard Probert, project director at Ballymore, said at the end of 2012 nobody was building speculatively but the company hoped to cash in on a “chronic shortage” of grade A office space which he said was looming in Birmingham.
“It’s a fresh application for a totally different scheme,” he said.
“No one is willing to commit that far in advance. But we expect confidence to return into 2013-14 through to 2019.
“We would like the opportunity to build at this gateway site as it’s very important to Birmingham.”
One Snowhill was completed in 2009 and sold by Commerz Real for £124 million – a 6.25 per cent yield.
The 300,000 sq ft Two Snowhill opened earlier in 2013, a year late, with a 250,000 sq ft pre-let to law firm Wragge & Co.
While there is a dwindling stock of Grade A in the city, Mr Probert said he believed it would be some time before there was more brought to the market over and above Two Snowhill.
“The hotel was a make weight – a nice to have – but it is making the residential work that is the issue,” he added.
“The quality that we build, which are 20 to 25 per cent above most, would need a rise in market of 50 per cent to justify it and I can’t see it.”
It has been a long journey for Mr Probert and Ballymore as they have navigated through the worst conditions for the commercial property market in living memory but the project is now back on track and set to provide a phenomenal gateway into the city when it is complete.
Area: Snow Hill, Birmingham
Size: 15-storey tower
Development type: Mixed, 250,000 sq ft of offices, 56,000 sq ft of leisure and conference space,13,000 sq ft of shops and restaurants and 180 parking spaces.
- This article is part of the Birmingham Skyline 2014 supplement produced by the Birmingham Post