“Fibre optic could be as important for the Midlands as HS2 and the region should have great appeal for global funds investing in energy and tech infrastructure.” - Adrian Bland
These were two themes that came out of the Urban Land Institute/PWC`s Emerging Trends in Real Estate Midlands 2021 recent event. The exciting announcement of plans for a Gigafactory at Coventry Airport came a few days later, to underline those views.
Digital connections though, go hand in hand with physical connectivity – especially rail, air and mass transit – and these continue to rank top of investors` lists when choosing which cities to back. That came over loud and clear in the report at the heart of the event. Good news then for the first region to benefit from HS2 and with significant mass transit expansion in the pipeline.
Adrian Bland, partner in our real estate team and chair of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Midlands, shares his views on the future plans for Birmingham.
Themes and debates of the day
There is a lot of noise out there at the moment. The challenge is to distinguish between the noise and the signal. With that in mind, experts –and delegates at the event shared views and set debates rolling such as:
- Boris`s “Build, Build, Build” vs a shrinking pool of contractors, skills/materials shortages and rising costs
- Birmingham City Council`s imaginative new vision for central Birmingham vs the challenges of funding and implementation
- Affordable housing plans launched by West Midlands Combined Authority and housebuilders allocating more land for affordable vs increased costs post-Grenfell and environmental requirements impacting on housing providers
- The rise and rise of logistics vs the search for more advanced automation which will reduce the number of jobs in the sector
- Investor requirements for covenant vs buildings becoming less a commodity, more part of a service offer with occupiers deciding on flexibility, facilities, systems and brand
- Offices – large city centre spaces (reconfigured post-COVID) vs smaller floor space with suburban satellite offices, decline in demand vs more floor space per person.
Real Estate Prospects
The report ranks 31 major cities across Europe according to their real estate prospects. Berlin tops the league, closely followed by London, Paris and Frankfurt. In fact, there are four German cities in the top 10.
The near-1,000 key real estate decision-makers across Europe, who contribute to the report, have viewed major UK regional cities less favourably since the decision to leave the EU. Birmingham, Edinburgh and Manchester have all slipped from flying high to places outside the top 20. UK investor sentiment, those that are more familiar with the regional cities, is more positive though: ranking Birmingham 18 in Europe, up from 27 – despite Brexit and Coronavirus.
What this past year and the beginning of life outside the EU has shown us is that there is no shortage of challenges and opportunities for our regional cities, but as a commercial development specialist, having worked in the Birmingham and Midlands market for many years there is a perceived resilience and potential for Birmingham and the wider Midlands as a whole and I am excited to see its future.
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