Boom Time Birmingham?
A few weeks ago on this very website we spoke about time being somewhat ripe for investment in the UK’s second city, Birmingham. And, indeed, it’s a theme that seems to have been steadily growing in traction across the financial pages of the national media. In the past week alone the FT, Sunday Times and MoneyWeek, to name a significant few, have run articles promoting this very notion.
That Birmingham is, as the old cliché goes, a city on the up.
As we mentioned in our previous article, Birmingham presents a number of general positives for investors looking for a return beyond the perimeter of the M25. Lower cost of living, combined with an impetus on regeneration and transport improvements have played a part in the city becoming a more than viable alternative to the London market.
All well and good, but how has this translated in reality? What exactly is happening in Birmingham to prompt this, as the FT and others have labelled it, renaissance?
Twenty-First Century Facelift
The city centre represents a particularly visible example of the ‘new’ Birmingham and highlights just why investors should be looking to the Midlands metropolis. Gone is the overbearing grey concrete jungle image that permeated our perception of Birmingham in the latter half of the last century; a by-product of some less-than-subtle 60s and 70s architecture.
In its place, contemporary renovations of the facades along New Street, a sleek new look to the iconic Bull Ring and the surrounding St Martin’s Square with its trendy bars and restaurants. This is a phase of city centre regeneration that symbolises the commitment to investment prevalent in the region. Indeed, as the FT article “Birmingham replaces the brutal old with urban meadows and fountains” highlights, this will be further enhanced in the coming years with major projects already underway such as the public-private collaboration on Paradise – a £500 million revamp of the Chamberlain Square civic centre.
Big Business Influx
Adding to the investment optimism might be the fact that Birmingham is more and more becoming a favoured home for some of the biggest names in business and finance. With big financial houses such as HSBC and Deutsche Bank relocating some of its major operations to the city with Barclays looking to increase its presence in the future as well. Add to this the introduction of top end retailers such as John Lewis and Harvey Nicks onto the high street and the signs tend to point towards a prosperous climate; factors which prompted a MoneyWeek article from the end of September to suggest that Birmingham might just be the first-choice city for buy-to-let investors given the continued growth and the addition of more and more young professionals to the region, following the jobs and relatively low cost-of-living compared to the South.
Opportunities for Growth
Whilst London continues to be the first choice for many new professionals and graduates entering the workforce and seeking their fortune, the fact remains that Birmingham has rapidly become a favourable alternative, with more young professionals moving to the city than any other outside the capital. With a vibrant student and youth culture scene adding an energy to the city, there is certainly a new-found sense of excitement to Birmingham life. This in itself lends the city a vibe that should appeal to investors looking to get involved with a progressive environment. And with the city not immune to the countrywide issue concerning inadequate levels of accommodation, opportunities for investors into property, and in particular the buy-to-let market, look set to continue in and around Birmingham for some time to come.