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Boom time for Birmingham city centre as Enterprise Zone deals kick in

Boom time for Birmingham city centre as Enterprise Zone deals kick in

🕔05.Mar 2015

Blue chip companies are piling into Birmingham to take advantage of a generous rates relief deal offered by the city centre Enterprise Zone, reports Paul Dale.

The EZ, covering 26 sites in the central core, spent £18 million in 2014-15 to kick-start and complete 60,000 square metres of development and create 1,000 jobs.

A number of major schemes have recently opened including Two Snowhill, at a time when Grade A office space is becoming increasingly scarce.

The building has attracted tenants including global law firm Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co and the new 100,000 sq ft national HS2 headquarters.

Firms moving into the Enterprise Zone can claim rates relief up to £275,000, which has helped stimulate demand for property in the city centre. The EZ can generate investment by borrowing against the future business rates uplift from new firms moving into the zone.

Other projects that have benefited from EZ investment include 122 Fazeley Street and two major educational institutions: phase one of Birmingham City University’s £180 million Eastside campus, and the phase one of University College Birmingham’s new site.

The attractions to businesses of the EZ will be championed by Birmingham city council and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP at MIPIM, the annual property fair in Cannes from 10 to 13 March.

Last year GBSLEP and the council agreed to increase the amount of funding available via the EZ to £275 million from £128 million, to help create 40,000 jobs over the next 25 years.

GSLEP chair Andy Street commented:

Since we launched the EZ in April 2011 we have turned this transformational initiative into reality. Developments are being delivered on the ground and importantly we are providing much needed jobs which otherwise would simply not happen. The actual investment figures are impressive and emphasise why it’s important to get this right.

Alongside the £375 million we have secured from the Growth Deal it is clear that we now have a powerful programme of investment that will help us to drive growth and support the economic recovery across the region.”

EZ funding has helped to trigger developments tailored to the creative, digital and tech industries. In Birmingham alone, these sectors comprise some 6,000 companies employing 35,000 people.

The projects range from the transformation of a warehouse on Palmer Street in Digbeth into a local data centre; and the construction of the £35 million iCentrum building at the Innovation Birmingham Campus has now started, which will house tech entrepreneurs and start-ups when it opens in March 2016.

The EZ has also supported the expansion of the Masshouse development, which includes new office space.

Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said:

Birmingham is investing on an unprecedented scale to grow its infrastructure, its economy and its employment opportunities.

More businesses than ever are deciding to locate or start up in the area. Birmingham’s EZ is opening up swathes of the city centre for development, prompting the regeneration of up-and-coming districts and making established areas even more attractive for companies and investors.”

Pat Hanlon, GBSLEP Board Director with responsibility for finance, commented:

By borrowing against future business rates uplift, we now have a funding package worth £275 million to maximise the impact of the EZ. Using this model has helped to secure private sector investment and is delivering tangible results, such as the start of construction on the Paradise scheme.

Projects that are expected to be completed in 2015 include the former Post & Mail Building, the new Assay Office in the Jewellery Quarter and the second phase of Birmingham City University’s Eastside campus. Combined, they are expected to generate over 70,000 sq m and 900 jobs. Investment has also been allocated to help deliver the £500 million transformation of Paradise and the Midland Metro’s £127 million extension across the city centre.

A further £17 million has been allocated to improving public spaces and road networks in the Colmore Business District, Snowhill, Digbeth, Jewellery Quarter and Eastside areas of the city.

Waheed Nazir, Director for Planning & Regeneration at Birmingham City Council, added:

Working closely with the LEP, we have been able to put in the place much needed support to help energise the economy and turn long talked about schemes such as Paradise into a reality.

Alongside major investment in infrastructure like the extension of the Metro to Centenary Square it is clear that the EZ is playing a vital role in helping Birmingham build an exciting future as a leading place to do business and invest.

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