More than 60 industry experts came together recently at PwC’s Birmingham office to discuss the findings of the 2019 PwC/ ULI Emerging Trends in Real Estate® Europe report. The event was hosted by Adrian Bland, Chairman of ULI Midlands and Head of Commercial Real Estate at Shakespeare Martineau, Liz Waller, Executive Director at ULI UK, and Jonathan Clements, director and specialist in real estate tax at PwC, and were joined by a panel of real estate specialists, chaired by Martin Guest, managing director for the Midlands & South at CBRE.

Based on the opinions of over 800 real estate professionals in Europe, including investors, developers, lenders, and advisors, the report places Birmingham at 24. Whilst down from its place of 21 last year, the city moves ahead of Manchester at 25, Edinburgh at 26 and London at 29.

Cities are selected and ranked on a broad range of criteria that the real estate industry see as important when choosing a city for investment or development are transport connectivity, availability of assets, traditional finance measures, economic performance and digital connectivity, and attractions to talent and city leadership.

The report recognises the significant investment being made in infrastructure and connectivity in Birmingham, including HS2, the extension of the Metro, and 5G mobile data pilot scheme, as the city continues to position itself as a prime UK location for investors. However, in the long term, Brexit uncertainty continues to colour the UK’s regional real estate markets.

Jonathan Clements, Director and specialist in real estate tax at PwC commented:

“When you explore the factors that investors and developers place their confidence in, Birmingham scores highly in all of these. Whilst the UK as a whole is being affected by uncertainty surrounding Brexit, Birmingham is performing strongly and provides a wide range of real estate opportunities.

“Game changers for Birmingham include investment in transport connectivity with HS2 and the Metro, and infrastructure with the 5G test-bed. The attractiveness of the city is also boosted by its leadership, including Mayor Andy Street, and its access to an excellent talent pool of graduates and emerging talent as the number one location outside London for start-ups and scale-ups.

“Our own commitment to our new home, One Chamberlain Square at Paradise, is PwC’s largest single investment outside of London. We employ over 2,200 people across the Midlands and are committed to recruiting local talent, including school leavers, apprentices and graduates.”

Martin Guest, Managing Director for the Midlands & South at CBRE, added:

“Birmingham is home to some of the largest residential, commercial and infrastructure investments outside of London. These include Curzon Street station to house the new HS2 station at the heart of Eastside and promoting wider regeneration, as well as HSBC’s move to Arena Central. Whilst large scale projects, such as Birmingham Smithfield, the Curzon Investment Plan and HS2 provide investment opportunities, we are also seeing an active market in the city’s residential property portfolio.

“The residential market remains strong with prices improving and more interest in city centre private rented sector (PRS) schemes as we see further applications for developments, such as Exchange Square. Blackstone’s investment in purchasing the NEC as part of its global investment portfolio also demonstrates the region’s position and attractiveness on the world stage.” 

Adrian Bland, Chairman of ULI Midlands and Head of Commercial Real Estate at Shakespeare Martineau concluded:

“We are seeing changes in the type of real estate in demand to meet the requirements of our evolving commercial, residential and social environments. There is a growing demand for co-working and flexible working spaces, as well as technology-enabled and learning environments as we see the city become a hub for life science and tech start-ups.  However, on the high street we are seeing traditional retail space being hard hit by the retail crisis, with the likes of House of Fraser in jeopardy, and city centre real estate being redeveloped into mixed use. 

“Continuing to attract investment and foreign capital is vital for Birmingham to maintain the momentum of its success story with the unprecedented opportunities provided by HS2, Metro, Commonwealth Games 2022, the 5G ‘test bed’ and the related infrastructure investment.”