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Q&A - why is Birmingham's property market booming?

Last week we ran a story on the latest part of the landmark Snow Hill Wharf scheme being launched to market in Birmingham.

Today, in the week the apartments at The Regent become available to UK and overseas investors, we check in with Charlie Joseph, sales and marketing director at Berkeley Group St Joseph, for her thoughts on Birmingham's boom, the impact of coronavirus and the company's planned future growth.

Why has St Joseph chosen Birmingham for its first scheme?


Birmingham is a truly international city. The arrival of global firms such as HSBC and BT, alongside major infrastructure projects, are driving new economic growth. Combined with the phenomenal leisure and hospitality offering, we are seeing more young people staying here and those living in other cities, such as London, relocating to Birmingham.

The city’s rapid transformation is mirrored in its property market, with owner-occupiers and investors seeing it as a prime location. This is leading to increased demand for high-quality new homes which, according to Rightmove, is outstripping supply in some areas by nearly 2:1.

Birmingham City Council has an ambitious vision and wanted Berkeley Group to come. Through collaborative working with the Council, St Joseph is regenerating key areas such as the Gun Quarter and raising the bar for residential living in Birmingham.

How has coronavirus affected St Joseph, in terms of new developments? How might the company be affected in the future?

The coronavirus is impacting all parts of society. However, St Joseph believes in the long-term resilience and growth of Birmingham, including its property market.

People still need good-quality new homes and we are facing high demand for Snow Hill Wharf. Over half of the 420 apartments are already purchased, with buyers recognising Berkeley Group’s design and sharing our ambition for the city.

Will new developments have to be adapted to a post-pandemic world, in terms of social distancing and hygiene protocols?

St Joseph never stands still. We are committed to quality design and are always looking to innovate. Adapting to the coronavirus is no different.

Berkeley Group’s founder, Tony Pidgley CBE, who sadly died recently, used to have a famous motto, ‘the space between buildings is as important as the buildings themselves.’ His legacy lives on in Berkeley Group, with the recent lockdown highlighting the importance of outdoor areas.

Snow Hill Wharf was always designed with this in mind. Over 40% of the 1.87-acre neighbourhood is outdoor space, with three canal side podium gardens offering residents a place to safely relax and socialise.

Will virtual tours become commonplace in the new normal? Will they be a lasting legacy of the pandemic?

St Joseph is part of a global brand and since the firm’s launch in 2017 we have used interactive technology to show people our neighbourhoods in incredible detail - no matter whether they are based in London, Birmingham or Manchester.

For Snow Hill Wharf, our virtual tour allows viewers to experience the different metals used on each building, the communal spaces such as the residents’ lounge and cinema, as well as all three podium gardens.

You can look into each home and see their unique views of Birmingham’s evolving skyline, including from our landmark The Regent building which is the jewel in Snow Hill Wharf’s crown.

Whereas before, someone living in Nottingham, for example, may have visited Birmingham for an initial enquiry, the pandemic has meant that more people have utilised virtual tours. This helps save people time, while providing them with a level of detail rivalled only by show homes.

How did St Joseph become established in the first place?

As mentioned earlier, Berkeley Group launched St Joseph in 2017 as its first division outside the UK’s south-east. Birmingham was the ideal move for us to begin to progress our landmark neighbourhood, Snow Hill Wharf, and also set up a headquarters in the city where we now employ over 50 staff.

Launching St Joseph has enabled Berkeley Group to bring its expertise in placemaking and community creation to new areas in the UK. There is a huge opportunity for St Joseph in Birmingham. We are raising the bar for residential development and regenerating some real gems in the city.

There will never be an opportunity to create neighbourhoods like Snow Hill Wharf again. The community is right in Birmingham’s city core and within five minutes’ walk to the business district and main transport links, but has also been designed to be a canal side oasis located in an area steeped in history.

The St Joseph name was inspired by the civic improvements delivered by Birmingham's 19th century major, Joseph Chamberlain - please explain more?

St Joseph’s name was inspired by the civic improvements delivered by Birmingham's 19th century mayor, Joseph Chamberlain, who is well-known for establishing the University of Birmingham amongst other groundbreaking projects. We share his belief that an inspiring public realm is key to creating thriving communities.

Our aim is to create neighbourhoods where residents can live, grow and prosper, but also ensure we knit into the fabric of the local environment. We are achieving this at Snow Hill Wharf through close working with St Chad’s Cathedral which neighbours the site, and also the Canal & River Trust.

What are St Joseph's future ambitions? Is there a five-year plan, or something similar?

St Joseph is invested in Birmingham and is set to play a key role in its long-term transformation. At Snow Hill Wharf, we are regenerating a former 1.87-acre goods yard to create a thriving new neighbourhood which will attract more than 700 residents. 

Now we have set the bar for residential development in the city, we want to progress more ambitious regeneration projects, including Glasswater Locks which is our latest project in Birmingham’s Eastside. The neighbourhood, which follows our theme of canal side placemaking, is set to feature over 700 new homes and commercial space.

Our offering does go further and we are always looking at raising the residential quality elsewhere. St Joseph’s patch is between Birmingham and Oxford. We only progress the right opportunities, though - projects that will allow us to create high-quality new homes and communities.”

Will cities like Birmingham suffer from reduced demand as the pandemic leads to more people moving to the countryside or staying local in their town, village or suburb? 

Birmingham remains an attractive proposition for investors and owner-occupiers. We are experiencing the strong demand for high-quality new homes first-hand, with over half of the 420 apartments at Snow Hill Wharf already sold.

The latest Rightmove data reveals that this is having a positive impact on values, with residential prices in the Gun Quarter and wider B4 postcode up 23% on the previous year.

Living in a city centre isn’t just about price growth or jobs, though, it’s about the lifestyle, especially for young people. This is what makes Birmingham special, with the city boasting a diverse retail and leisure offering, the most Michelin-starred restaurants outside of London and a strong independent business community.

St Joseph believes in Birmingham. By setting a new residential standard with Snow Hill Wharf and offering a wide range of homes, we are appealing to people already living in the city looking to upgrade, as well as those relocating here.

Snow Hill Wharf is a stone’s throw away from Birmingham’s business district and buildings such as Three Snowhill which will house BT’s new office. However, the success of the neighbourhood is not reliant on its close proximity to the centre, but also its state-of-the art amenities, design and landscaping.

We are excited for first completions early next year, as well as the development of show homes and a sales and marketing suite. This is a new phase for St Joseph’s Snow Hill Wharf, one that sees us push forward with our plans to provide high-quality new homes and leave a lasting legacy in Birmingham.

Poll: Will Birmingham soon be rivalling London in terms of investment desirability?



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