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Hot Spot 2 (HS2)…the rise of the UK’s second city


2012 has been London’s year. Britain’s capital has been plastered across the media across the world with a succession of momentous events including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the London 2012 Olympics and the Paralympics. But with funding ‘sign off’ for the long anticipated HS2 rail link expected in 2013 (with construction believed to begin in 2016), the rest of the world could be about to discover what Brummies have always known…that Birmingham is so much more than just curries and canals. 

Those who have never visited Birmingham often have a vision of a grey, industrial town, with little greenery and even less cosmopolitan diversion. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. While Brummies remain staunchly proud of their home’s illustrious history as being among the greatest industrial cities of the 1900s, one of the most successful regeneration schemes in the world has transformed Birmingham into a cosmopolitan hub where you can find Michelin star dining, world class shopping and some of the best cultural and contemporary entertainment Europe has to offer. In fact, The New York Times rated Brum so much that it included in its list of 45 places to go in 2012 because of its remarkable cuisine.

And, despite the fact that those who remain uneducated about Birmingham’s charms can find it surprising that people might actually choose to live in Birmingham, the city more than measures up when it comes to finding a place to make your home. Thanks to a bunch of developers with the foresight to see its potential, the city of a thousand trades has become the city of a thousand apartments. 

Living in Birmingham

So, with the new high speed rail link promising to make the journey from Birmingham to London just 40 minutes (usually far quicker than a commuter battle with the M25 for those that live in the Home Counties), will more people discover Birmingham as the ideal place to call home. And when they get here, what can they expect to find?:

For those looking for a family home, less than 10 minutes’ drive out of the city you’ll discover the charming villages of Moseley, Harbourne and Edgbaston. Here you’ll find an array of period properties, with plenty of bedrooms, spacious reception rooms and usually a decent sized garden. A typical 4-bedroom terraced property would set you back somewhere in the region of £200,000-£250,000 – take that figure to London and you’d be lucky to find a tiny studio apartment in need of some work to be within your budget.

Moving into the city, the most popular areas for both investors and owner occupiers remain the Jewellery Quarter and the Convention Quarter, as much of the city’s apartment space is clustered in these areas. 

Birmingham City Council was keen to promote the Jewellery Quarter for residential development and pre-recession both local developers and national operators earmarked it for expansion. It’s not difficult to see why: the area retains its historic charms, yet boasts easy access to both the city centre and Brindleyplace.

What’s more, the area is developing a thriving leisure offer to cater for its residents’ needs. To add to its established bar culture, there are now a handful of newly opened coffee shops and delis, and even a boutique hotel, giving the Jewellery Quarter a welcome buzz.  

Developments on offer include The Orb, Newhampton Lofts and the recently completed St Paul’s Place, which is right on St Paul’s Square and offers views of the churchyard from its frontage. 

If its canal views you are after, the Convention Quarter is your best bet. This is undoubtedly the most established residential location, with Symphony Court, Liberty Place, Watermarque, Jupiter, King Edward’s Wharf and Sherborne Lofts offering sought-after waterside locations. 

Further down the towpath, in the heart of the city, the Mailbox remains one of the most desirable areas to live with apartments available in the prestigious Royal Arch above the Mailbox itself, as well as the popular Centenary Plaza and the newly minted Cube.

Buyers can pick up a studio property from as little as £60,000, with standard 2-bed apartment setting you back in the region of £120,000 to £170,000. Then there’s the really swanky stuff to rival any penthouse London has to offer, but rarely exceeding the £600,000 mark these are a fraction of the price tag of their counterparts at the other end of the HS2 line! 

Changes in Birmingham 

The HS2 is not the only big change on the cards for Birmingham. 

The redevelopment of New Street Station is already well underway, with the first half of the concourse due to open in April 2013. The ‘mission statement’ is “to create a stunning 21st century transport hub for Birmingham and the West Midlands,” and the plans certainly seem to deliver just that. The works will see further enhancements to Birmingham’s retail offering, with the Pallasades shopping centre which adjoins the station having a complete overhaul and a proposed expansion of the John Lewis store into a new full-line department store, which will be one of the largest outside London.

The New Street vision builds on the success of the Bullring redevelopment in 2003, with its now famous Paco Rabanne-inspired casing of the Selfridges, and together with planned improvements to better link the iconic Mailbox building with its high-end retail, bars and restaurants really puts Birmingham on the map. 

Move over London, 2013 is the year of the Brummies!


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