As rents continue to rise in prime business locations, developers are increasingly keen to modernise or redevelop properties in order to create a greater supply of Grade A office space. This has been the case at 103 Colmore Row in Birmingham, where new owners Rockspring and Sterling Property Ventures are seeking to fast track planning permission for a radical overhaul of the site.
Although the deal to purchase the former NatWest Tower from British Land only completed in November of last year, the funding firm and property developer hope that they will be able to begin the on-site demolition by March this year. Should this be possible, they will then begin a step by step demolition programme of the 22 storey tower block expected to last between ten and 12 months.
During the demolition process, the partnership will begin to draw up revised plans for a new 200,000 sq ft Grade A office tower block. While the site already has planning permission in place for a larger 35 storey tower, the owners believe a smaller speculative development project, to be around the same size as the existing building, will prove more profitable in the long term.
Sterling Property Ventures’ managing director, James Howarth, believes the fast tracking of permission will prove beneficial given Birmingham’s currently dwindling supply of prime office space.
He says; “There is an urgent need for the early delivery of a high quality office space in the city centre enterprise zone, given that much of Birmingham’s Grade A space has been let and demand from occupiers is increasing.
“103 Colmore Row sits on a prominent site along Birmingham’s best business address, yet it has become the poster boy for the city’s lack of speculative development.
“We acquired the site at the end of last year with the intention of being the first new office build to be delivered in Birmingham’s central business district since Two Snowhill – if we are able to commence demolition work while the new building is designed, approved and contracted, it’s entirely feasible that Birmingham will have a new Grade A office tower, comprising more than 200,000 sq ft by the end of 2017.”
In order to maximise efficiency during the construction period, Sterling Property Ventures and Rockspring have already submitted interim landscaping plans for the site to Birmingham City Council. This will mean that, should there be a delay in commencing construction, the project should remain largely on schedule.
Yet Mr Howarth continues; “This is very much a plan B. Our intention is to crack on with this exciting scheme at the very earliest opportunity.
“This development is not contingent upon a pre-let – we have both the funds and the confidence to build speculatively.”
103 Colmore Row was constructed in the 1970s, and the concrete panelled tower has since become one of the most recognisable landmarks in Birmingham city centre. It was designed by architect John Madin and is not the first of his buildings to face demolition in the city. However, in an ironic twist of fate, St James’s House, also in Birmingham, was among 14 post-war office buildings granted Grade II listed status by English Heritage this week.
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