Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council, reflects on the renaissance of Birmingham and what it means for the future of the city.
Birmingham has just seen two major milestones in the ongoing transformation of the city, with the opening of New Street station and Grand Central. But when talking about transformation, ‘ongoing’ is the key word. Now that we’ve reached these milestones we aren’t stopping. There is so much more going on in Birmingham.
This weekend has shown again how brilliantly the city can stage major events and play host to people from around the world. We’ve done it before – Euro ‘96, Eurovision and G8 Summit (1998), Papal Visit (2010), hosting the Jamaica and US track and field Olympic teams (2012), to name but a few.
And how wonderful this weekend to see the streets around Villa Park – and throughout the city – thronged with rugby fans from all corners of the globe, joining in with locals and visitors from around the country.
Many of them will have seen the regeneration work going on around the city, including the transformation of the Paradise area which will open up the city centre, particularly between Victoria Square and Centenary Square.
Next month will also see the adoption of the Snow Hill master plan and the contract signed that will see the wholesale markets move to a specially designed site in Witton. The £600m master plan will see the business district, around Colmore Row, transformed and win further investment from global business, particularly from the professional and financial services sectors, in an effort to emulate the success of London’s Canary Wharf and create thousands of jobs. We have already seen HSBC commit to move its HQ to Birmingham and I expect many more firms to follow, along with the young families already leaving London for a better quality of life.
They are finding it here in Birmingham.
Twenty-odd years ago, Birmingham was a very different place to the city it is today, there just wasn’t that much going on in the city centre and you would struggle to know where to take visitors, whether that be in terms of restaurants – now we have five with Michelin stars (congratulations Carters of Moseley!) – or attractions.
So, back then, we needed to look at just what Birmingham could offer and to bring in investment. It was about re-balancing the economy and not being dependent on one sector i.e. manufacturing. We started with the city centre because it is generally the first experience people have, and set about making it an attractive place to work, visit and live, which in turn brought in further investment.
In what is a relatively short period of time, since the mid 1990s, we have seen the ICC, Symphony Hall, Mailbox, Brindley Place and the Library of Birmingham all regenerate and rejuvenate the city.
And don’t forget, HS2 is coming down the track, with all the development, investment, skills and jobs that will attract around Eastside/Curzon Street and across Birmingham as a whole.
Birmingham folk are rightly very proud of their city, and should be, particularly after the week we have just had and we must all hold on tight to that pride. But we can’t just be inwardly proud, we have to all talk our city up and sell the place on a much bigger scale.
The transformation of New Street station and opening of Grand Central, plus the amazing arts and sports events of this weekend, has really showcased just what we have to offer. We now have a retail offer that most cities simply can’t provide and a railway station that people will want to come to and through, that will let them know they have arrived at a vibrant city.
There is still some way to go but the events of the last week or so give us added momentum and all these things we have achieved not only in the last few days and months but also in previous years, reaching this point, are all components in the ongoing renaissance and story of our great city.
We can all hold our heads up high and be proud of what we have become, and continue to move ‘Forward’ – fulfilling the motto of Birmingham.