Arena Central Developments (ACD) has confirmed that demolition and ground work will begin within weeks to allow the first phase of its 2.3m square feet Birmingham Arena Central development to start early next year. The developer has also appointed Make Architects to design the scheme’s first office building.
The announcement by ACD — a joint venture between Miller Developments and Bridgehouse Capital — is seen as further proof of a regional turnaround in the property market and the gathering pace of speculative office schemes.
First mooted as far back as 2004, the financial crisis forced a delay to the city’s original mixed-use Arena Central scheme. Last year’s revised master plan envisaged a 210-bedroom Holiday Inn Express hotel linked to the existing Crowne Plaza Hotel as the project’s first building. But under its latest manifestation a speculative seven-storey office block will be the first to be completed. Detailed plans for the 144,000sq ft curved-fronted building, named Arena One, look set for a June approval with the first tenants moving in by mid-2016.
Outline planning consent for the entire 9.2-acre Arena Central site is already in place. Included in the development are 800,000sq ft of Grade A office accommodation, hotels and more than 200,000sq ft of residential accommodation. There will also be 1.2m square feet of retail and leisure units.
“Arena Central forms an integral part of Birmingham City Council’s ‘Big City Plan’, as well as having a prime position within the city centre enterprise zone,” explained Jonathan Wallis, development director at Miller Developments. “We are working closely with the city authority to deliver the site’s first commercial building, which is planned for a prominent position fronting Broad Street.
“The Arena Central site is one of the most strategically important locations in the city and our proximity to the Library of Birmingham, the established city core, Brindleyplace and The Mailbox will undoubtedly help to create a fully connected, 21st century location,” added Wallis.
Plans for public areas within the project include a landscaped ‘pedestrian spine’ walkway taking inspiration from New York’s High Line (pictured) and the Promenade Plantee in Paris. And the privately-owned developer Dandara, which bought a proposed 50-storey residential scheme at Arena Central in 2004, is also close to unveiling scaled down plans for a tower scheme.
One reason behind the switch from hotel to commercial for the scheme’s first phase is Birmingham’s acute shortage of Grade A offices space. ACD’s development will go head-to-head with the Argent Group’s nearby 1.8m square feet Paradise Circus mixed-use scheme, where the construction of its first speculative office buildings is expected to start next year.
“There is an office supply shortage building up in Birmingham and from 2015 onwards we’re going to be in trouble in this city,” Wallis warned. “There’s a big play for first mover advantage.”