1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: "cpeo@cpeo.org" <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 1999 12:42:02 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: UK news: City of Birmingham
BBC News

"New signs of life in the city"

Ten years ago, life in inner city Birmingham was a distinctly nine to five

At the end of each working day, thousands of white-collar workers deserted
the heart of England's self-styled "second city" for the suburbs and beyond. 

With its car-congested central streets and tracts of abandoned industrial
land alongside a largely disused canal, there was little to attract

Even the custom-built Symphony Hall, the new National Indoor Arena and the
relocation of the Sadler's Wells ballet from London, initially failed to
tempt migrants. 

Yet in 1999, downtown Brum is booming. Twenty-four-hour city it is not, but
there is life well after teatime. 

New shops, museums, restaurants, music venues and pubs, have attracted
property developers to build on brownfield sites - mostly disused factory
space. It is urban regeneration 1990s-style, with "mixed spaces" combining
residential and business developments. 

Birmingham's Symphony Court, the epicentre of its current revival, with 143
apartments, is the sort of project the Urban Task Force wants to see more of. 

The task force, led by the Labour peer and celebrated architect, Lord
Rogers, has listed more than 100 recommendations designed to revive
England's decaying urban areas. 

Many of the suggestions are aimed at promoting new inner city housing
initiatives, and thereby easing greenfield development in the overcrowded
countryside. It has applauded efforts at regeneration by Ipswich.
Leicester, Nottingham and Portsmouth. However, the report highlights
persistent decline in many other urban areas.  

The government, faced with projections of nearly four million new homes
over the next 20 years, is expected to include many of the proposals in
future policy. 

Manchester makeover 

In central Manchester, trendy loft-style apartments are a key part of the
city's 1990s renaissance. 

Six years ago only 200 people lived in the city centre. That has risen to
10,000 and is expected to double over the next two years. What is more,
they are buying high quality housing that is increasing in value. 

"We lived in s**t and thought that was how God made it.  But man made it,
and man can unmake it," is how one developer has summed up the spirit of
the city's renewal. 

With his company Urban Splash, Tom Bloxham has been one of the leading
lights in Manchester's regeneration.

The young developer of loft-style apartments has even been awarded an MBE
for his work in helping revive some of the most run-down areas of the city. 

It takes nerve 

There is no secret to the strategy that has made Mr Bloxham a millionaire
and helped put Manchester back on the map. Others have never had the "balls
to invest their money and make something happen", he says. 

Where Urban Splash has ventured, public money has followed, breathing new
life into the surrounding area, and so drawing in other developers. 

Yet Mr Bloxham is first and foremost a businessman, and there are some
areas even he fears to tread, because of the social problems caused by
"unemployment, deprivation and history". 

In the case of Hulme, it has taken huge public expenditure of 250m to
rescue the crime-blighted area and save 1,600 old terraced homes. 

Birmingham still has some way to go before it catches up with the likes of
Manchester, says David Fenton, of international property consultants Knight

The company moved to the West Midlands metropolis 18 months ago. "Leeds and
Manchester were already off the blocks, about three or four years ahead of
Birmingham," says Mr Fenton. 

His cites the current conversion of the Royal Mail Sorting Office - "the
biggest mixed use scheme in a single building in Europe" - as evidence of
the city centre bright future. 

The development will include a four-star hotel, 140 apartments, shops,
offices and restaurants. 

"There has been a complete change in attitudes." 

Alan Middleton, of the University of Central England, agreed that
Birmingham had managed to "turn itself around". 

"It doesn't have large problems of dereliction and the disappearance of
people that you see in other cities," said Mr Middleton, co-director of the
Centre for Public Policy and Urban Change. 

"There are no empty streets in Birmingham. The city has had reasonable
success in the past few years of turning itself around."

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