What would Capital of Culture status mean to Birmingham's property sector? Commercial property expert Mark Swallow looks into his crystal ball.
Birmingham is still undersold and its image is suffering from ignorance... the Capital of Culture bid is an opportunity to help shrug off this image
Action call... Birmingham must not miss out, says Mark Swallow, head of Knight Frank's 20-strong commercial property team in Birmingham
A Geordie by name and by nature, Mark Swallow, Knight Frank's head of the 20-strong commercial property team in Birmingham, moved here three years ago.
Despite his roots and the result of the recent poll where Newcastle came top, he is convinced that Birmingham should win the Capital of Culture 2008 bid.
In his view, the city needs a profile boost but the property marketplace should take heed and be ready for success to strike.
"Five years ago, Bill Clinton helped us show the world what Birmingham had to offer but it wasn't enough to sustain our popularity," Mr Swallow tells Business Property Review in what he describes as a wake-up call for all property professionals and those in other sectors.
"Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency, has reported that the gloomy economic picture is currently making attracting inward investment difficult but the Capital of Culture bid is a booster opportunity that will once more showcase Birmingham to the world.
"Should we win, inevitably, investment inquiries for commercial property will rise and when they do we need to be ready. The Capital of Culture bid is a call to action for the property market and all other relevant players.
"The next major office scheme has to be well under way to cope with this demand, otherwise Birmingham will miss out. There has been a notable lack of new build city centre office supply coming to the market for some time, particularly large schemes that would offer the potential space availability and quality required to follow on from a Brindleyplace-style scheme and its associated investments that enabled it to reach such phenomenal commercial heights for the city."
In Mr Swallow's view, it is essential for the future ongoing transformation of Birmingham that the likes of schemes such as Arena Central and Snow Hill, do move forward to allow Birmingham to compete on a level footing with the other key European cities for inward investment.
"The financial value of this type of scheme does not stop at the price paid for the site," he says.
"The property industry needs to play its part in this growth and show commitment to the city through bringing forward development schemes that have been on the table for many years. These schemes along with others such as the Post & Mail Building and Baskerville House will be critical to the long-term ripple impact on the city as a whole.
"This ripple effect speaks for itself. At Brindleyplace, it was the International Convention Centre that laid the foundations from which the regeneration of this part of the city has grown."
Acknowledged as a major contributor towards the city's strategic objectives and the change in perception of Birmingham on a global scale, it is estimated that new investments at Brindleyplace and the wider Birmingham Convention Quarter now account for 12,000 jobs - 3,700 of them new - together with 1,800 new private homes. More definitively, there are around 8,400 people working at Brindleyplace of which 1,850 are new jobs.
According to Mr Swallow, the giant Bullring redevelopment is creating a similar effect. "This will establish Birmingham as one of the leading European retail destinations as part of an #800 million retail investment in the city," he says.
"Eastside is pulling the city in another direction and is set to deliver a new learning, technology and heritage quarter. The Capital of Culture is a wake -up call to action for the property sector.
"We need to attract investors and woo those who traditionally head to the South-east. Forward is the motto of Birmingham and that's exactly where we need to be looking.
"Mixed-use schemes breathe new life and fresh ideas into the city with a spin off effect that is not only invaluable, but immeasurable.
"Birmingham is still undersold and its image is suffering from ignorance. The smog and congested motorway tag attached to the city remains despite the infamous concrete collar being almost removed and massive increase in the service sector and residential living in the city.
"The Capital of Culture bid is an opportunity to help shrug off this image. And the image is no more than that - a national and international perception from those who know no better - of a city that no longer exists. I wouldn't be so bold as to compare us to the lost city of Atlantis, but you get my meaning."