Tom Fleming looks at encouraging signs for the property sector in one Midland city.
Developments with a total value of £2 billion have come before planners in Coventry on one day – setting a new record for the city.
In the midst of headlines about the Haiti disaster, the snow and the possible recovery from recession, a planning meeting in Coventry did not rate highly on the news agenda.
Yet the gathering of councillors in committee room three of the city’s council house was evidence of a bright future for the city, with £2 billion worth of properties being discussed.
After seeing many projects shelved awaiting the gloomy economic skies to clear, decision-makers say several key schemes are moving forward as the city heads to MIPIM with a consortium of private sector partners.
Among those to go before the committee was Cannon Kirk’s Friargate scheme, which will cover 37 acres and has the potential to attract around 15,000 jobs to the new quarter.
The masterplan by Allies and Morrison features 14 Grade A office buildings, two hotels, new homes, restaurants, bars and retail around public spaces, as well as creating a much-needed gateway to the city.
The decking of the ring road will extend Greyfriars Green up to the station boundary and provide a link across what is largely regarded as the city’s concrete collar which in turn should provide a magnet for other schemes.
The second scheme before planners was a £10 million residential care centre for the Salvation Army which will also offer training and education facilities. It has attracted more than £6.5 million of capital funding.
The final project decided upon at the marathon meeting was the redevelopment of part of the former Courtaulds site in Foleshill to create around 450 new homes in the north of the city. Business and industrial units will follow.
Councillor Ken Taylor, leader of Coventry City Council, believes that the pipeline of development is proof that, in development terms, the city is progressing.
He said: “Attracting investment is a highly competitive business.
“Not only are you competing against cities within your region, but nationally and internationally.
“Of course, isolated investments are welcomed but we believe that we have conditions which are exceptionally favourable.
“Not only are we superbly located and have sites of real potential, we have tried to develop a positive culture.”
Coun Taylor said the triumvirate of applications may have been large but was certainly no freak.
In the same week as that meeting, the new million Qualifications Curriculum and Development Agency building was occupied by around 500 staff many of whom have relocated from London.
And all that came just a couple of weeks after the topping out of the new Severn Trent business centre which will bring 1,700 staff into the city centre to occupy the new seven-storey 170,000 sq ft building created for Stoford.
He said: “We will work closely with developers and individuals who want to bring the right sort of developments to the city. Severn Trent, for example, achieved planning consent in just eight weeks, while QCDA had a whole host of competing cities beating a path to its door.
“Maintaining a pipeline of development in these economic conditions is very difficult but we feel our timing – with our city centre masterplan – has allowed us to map out what should be a positive future.”
David Holt, of commercial property agents D&P Holt, is one of the most experienced professionals in the city and has worked on Friargate, Severn Trent and the Qualifications Curriculum and Development Agency.
“Anyone in property will tell you that working with people who possess a positive attitude is key to getting things done and that is what Coventry has increasingly adopted in recent years,” he said.
“While I have worked in London and Birmingham I have always been connected to Coventry and therefore not only have a vested interest in its success, but also believe in its potential.
“That’s why this can-do attitude is so welcome. The city’s presence at MIPIM sums that up.
“Some of the companies who go under the Coventry banner could easily view each other as competitors but we all go with a common aim – the betterment of the city. That has paid off not only at the show but also here, on the ground, where real changes are becoming evident.”
* Visit www.birminghampost.net for regular blogs written from the MIPIM conference.
* New developments in Coventry
* Earlsdon Park – office retail and leisure
* Belgrade Plaza – retail and leisure
* Friargate – £1.5 billion – retail and leisure
* Severn Trent – 170,000 sq ft office
* Far Gosford Street – 6.27 hectares of retail space
* Swanswell Initiative – £600 million scheme incorporating residential, leisure and education
* Paragon Park – residential, industrial, retail and leisure
* Whitley Business Park – £130 million scheme with 102,000 sq metres of industrial space
* Ansty Park – hi-tech innovation business park
* New Century Park – mixed use site
* ProLogis Park – mixed use
* Stoneleigh Park – business park, leisure and exhibition facilities
* Banner Lane – office and hi-tech manufacturing
* Canley – residential and leisure
* University of Warwick – education