Birmingham and the West Midlands has been much in the news of late with continued investment pouring into the area and big-ticket infrastructure projects like HS2 starting to take shape.
The focus on the region only intensified earlier this month with the election of former John Lewis boss, Andy Street, to the post of West Midlands Mayor, the first of its kind. It’s a wide-ranging brief, with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) comprising a broad area to include the major cities of Birmingham, Coventry, and Wolverhampton, as well as Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, and Walsall.
There are great hopes that both the creation of the post and the election of Street, who has strong business credentials forged from a highly successful career in retail, will only serve to further showcase the many attributes of the region as a great place to live, work and invest.
Mr Street will serve a three-year term in the role and will, as ambassador for the area, be charged with providing a strong voice for the region, news of which is already garnering increasing plaudits and interest on a global scale. His remit will include a £36 million a year budget and limited powers over housing, transport and jobs as part of a drive from Westminster to give local areas more control over their own spending and decisions.
Chief among his priorities and challenges in the role will be to ensure key local regeneration schemes forge ahead such as Birmingham’s planned Smithfield and Curzon Street developments. He’ll also be looking to help deliver some marquee initiatives for the region like encouraging television company Channel 4 to relocate to Birmingham and win the city’s ambitious 2022 Commonwealth Games bid. He will also have a keen focus on improving transport facilities across the region and will look to reopen several suburban rail lines around Birmingham to coincide with the development of the high-speed rail project HS2.
Specifically, on housing, Mr Street is said to favour prioritising building on brownfield land, making better use of properties currently standing empty and developing better high-density housing in towns and cities. He has previously also indicated a desire to convert more disused offices into flats.
While it is of course still very early days for the new Mayor, it all points to an encouraging picture for UK and overseas property investors looking to buy into the growing second city success story. Birmingham is a truly international city and it’s demonstrating 30% capital growth within the City Centre off-plan residential sector at developments like No.1 Hagley Road & Fabrick Square in Digbeth. As such Birmingham is increasingly offering investors greater scope for developing their portfolios away from the saturated London and South East markets.
We watch this space with interest…