Birmingham’s regeneration chief has vowed the city will ride out the property slump as it was announced that a landmark in the central business district is set for a £70 million makeover.
Councillor Neville Summerfield, the city council’s cabinet member for regeneration, said work that was planned to transform large swathes of the city would be unaffected by the credit crunch.
His confident prediction came as Henderson Global Investors announced plans to transform 55 Temple Row – the former site of the Bank of England – which is prime office space opposite St Philip’s Cathedral.
The investment group, part of the Birmingham Alliance consortium which built the Bullring, aims to create a new Grade A office building with ground floor retail space at the 18,000 sq metre (190,000 sq ft) site.
Concerns about developments in the city were raised last week after it emerged there will be a delay in the construction of a 44-storey residential tower at Snow Hill.
Developers Ballymore are reviewing the timetable for completion of the £500 million mixed-use regeneration scheme.
Although work has begun on building the footings of Snow hill Phase 3, it was confirmed poor market conditions could halt the residential element, being marketed as the highest habitable tower in the city.
While council leaders remained confident that the smaller of the two towers, a 23-storey block, will go ahead and be completed on time, the news was seen as confirmation that the property slump was beginning to bite city centre developments.
However, Coun Summerfield (Con Brandwood) said the development of 55 Temple Row was confirmation that Birmingham is riding out the storm.
He said: “There is a vast amount of projects going on in the city and we remain positive in a difficult environment.
“The two major city centre projects – the new library and New Street Station – are both immune from credit crunch factors. The library is funded with public cash and New Street will be funded with cash from a variety of sources including much public cash.
“I have also just taken the new developers around the Irish Quarter, where work will begin in November. The developers behind this were keen to stress that they are backed by Kuwaiti money, so there will not be any problems with regard to the credit crunch.”
Coun Summerfield also said a scheme to develop the canalside area and car parks surrounding Baskerville House had just agreed between the council and Targetfollow, the company behind the development of the Grade II listed building in Centenary Square.
An exclusivity agreement between the local authority and a development company tasked with transforming the wholesale market area will also be announced later this year, he said.
With more than £17 billion worth of investment currently on its books, Birmingham’s future regeneration plans overshadow in financial terms those planned in London for the 2012 Olympics.
The existing building at 55 Temple Row was commissioned by The Bank of England and completed in 1972.
Because it contains a large basement banking vault, extensive works were was carried out to adapt the building when the Bank sold it in 1997.
The developers have vowed to create a building that is in keeping with the Colmore Row Conservation Area by reinstating the traditional street frontages on a scale and character to fit in well with its surroundings. Acclaimed London-based architectural practice Squire and Partners has produced the proposed designs for the new scheme.
Henderson will hold a two-day public consultation exercise at The Studio on Cannon Street on August 21-22, before submitting a planning application.
Henderson director of commercial property development Geoff Harris said: “We aim to achieve a modern building with the classical elegance and symmetry that will enhance the Colmore Row Conservation Area.
“The two-day public consultation event will allow us to speak to local workers and residents about the plans. This will be an important new building that will help consolidate the commercial heart of Birmingham.”