Over the past decade the city has been pinning its hopes on the regeneration of Eastside. However, the dearth of new development on a number of earmarked sites indicates that the success of Eastside remains in its infancy and with the recent economic downturn, its immediate future may even be hanging in the balance.
On the surface, Eastside has all of the components in place to become a thriving mixed-use extension to the city core, but without the fundamental City Park to glue it all together, which remains on the drawing board, there is simply no impetus for occupiers to consider Eastside as a future home for their businesses.
Despite first thoughts that the recent HS2 proposals could seriously damage the future of the regeneration project as a whole, the re-masterplanning of the area that has recently been announced could be the catalyst to the success of the development of Eastside, but only if the urgent delivery of the Park becomes Birmingham City Council’s priority.
Recognition has to be given to the City for its vision of Eastside in the early noughties when the barrier created by the concrete collar was demolished to create strong linkages into the city centre and the business core. This kick-started much of the 420-acre Eastside vision we see today, including the first of the Eastside developments, Masshouse and Millennium Point.
The HS2 plans are of course welcomed in terms of enhancing the connectivity of city as a whole and Eastside, but aside from its direct transportation benefit, its development will indirectly and, perhaps controversially, address issues that may have in fact hindered the full potential of the quarter, particularly cutting the amount of directly competing development land.
It’s not a done deal but if the plans are to be realised, they only physically affect a handful of the developments earmarked for Eastside. For example, the line will not affect Masshouse or Goodman’s Eastside Locks site but the track would potentially take out over two thirds of Grainger and Development Securities 1.4 million sq ft Curzon Street site. Quintain’s City Park Gate site and Birmingham City University’s site are also greatly affected.
Whilst this is seriously bad news for Curzon Street, which could be blighted for up to seven years whether the proposals are realised or not, this is positive result for sites such as Eastside Locks and Masshouse that will benefit from the added connectivity and strategic position, as well as less direct competition from similar competing schemes in the area.
From a commercial development point of view, this streamlining is good news for those schemes that remain viable and on track. If the masterplan had remained unchanged and HS2 proposals had not been brought forward, the amount of competing development sites within Eastside would have been enormous. With pre HS2 proposals totalling over 2.5 million sq ft of gross office space, which is equivalent to some 10 years of the city’s total take-up, all within different and competing ownerships, there was serious potential for developers to undercut one another in fighting for the same enquiries, resulting in piecemeal development spread across various sites with no real heart or focus of critical mass within Eastside.
We await with baited breath the outcome of the redesigned masterplan in the coming months. Whatever this may bring, the fact that all development is hinged by the City Park proposals and HS2 simply cannot be ignored if Eastside is to have the bright future it deserves.