Birmingham has historically been the UK's second city. Once recognized as the industrial capital of England, Birmingham was indeed an economic pillar of stability for the country. Longbridge factories were pumping out cars for Jaguar whilst Cadbury was pumping out Dairy Milk for chocoholics. However, its tiny city centre, decimated industries and notoriously whiney accent have always plagued its status. Not even its bronzed bull and metallic acne-ridden whale AKA Selfridges, could save it at the start of the Millennium. Northern powerhouses were often in contention with Birmingham's title of 'The UK's Second City', and rightly so. Manchester's city centre is much larger than Birmingham's, and its economy is increasingly prosperous.
Now, in 2015, Birmingham has unveiled its latest trump card: Grand Central. This extravagant structure sits in the heart of Birmingham's city centre, where New Street Station and The Pallasades used to be. For many, this new instalment to the city is simply just another shopping complex, which adds nothing other than commercial value. However, the Grand Central development is far more important than you realise.
For those unfamiliar with Birmingham, you at least would have heard of New Street Station. It is the national hub for Britain's most extensive network, CrossCountry and is the busiest station outside of London. By re-vamping this integral cog to the rail network, New Street will now be a destination that expands beyond its rudimental function of connecting the rest of the UK. What used to be a jaded concourse of dark and dingy platforms is now an airy atrium of natural daylight, which Network rail boasts to be five times bigger than Euston's.
On a purely commercial basis, Brummies now have access to more London high street names, such as Neal's Yard Remedies and Foyles, as well as eateries such as Paul and Pho. Of course, the newest John Lewis, which overarches across New Street provides 4 floors of shoppers' delight. This not only gives local residents more choice but also sends the message to other retailers that Birmingham is a viable market.
This message is exactly why Birmingham's Grand Central is so important: it is a symbol of inward investment. Like honey factory to a bee, Grand Central is an investor's dream. Birmingham, which has always been at the heart of the UK has finally fulfilled its potential and now investors are finally able to find solace in investing in the city.
Evidence of this is already apparent. Colliers International launched the sale of four of their office buildings located in Brindley Place (Birmingham's business district), and have sent their agents to China, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, US and Canada to seek investment.
The investment incentive outcome is not simply a by-product of the Grand Central development, but an intended effect to the cause. As grand as Grand Central is, it was never built with it being the last development in Birmingham, but more, the flagship of new-age developments.
This intention couldn't be clearer than when evaluating the development of the tramline. Any Brummie will tell you that the tramline, which will run from New Street to Snow Hill is utterly pointless, on a practical level. New Street and Snow Hill's proximity simply does not require vehicular transport. Walking between the two has always been sufficiently efficient. However, for the external or even international investor, the brand new tramline makes the already prospering second city much more marketable.
Thanks to Grand Central, Birmingham is now equipped with a modern railway network that interconnects the rest of the country coupled with an abundance of commercial viability; all of which is located far enough outside of London to be affordable but not too far to make the journey to London inconvenient - especially with HS2 looming in the future. With Grand Central's grand design, commuters will be encouraged to spend more time in Birmingham as it warmly welcomes them as they disembark from the train. However, it is the investors who will be lured in the most. Grand Central is an incredible new landmark for Birmingham, but is only the first. Birmingham will be spending its iminent life, living in the investors' paradise.