A consortium of Chinese investors has made what is believed to be the first investment into the redevelopment of a commercial property outside London, purchasing a Grade II listed building from Birmingham City Council.
The group of investors, comprised of high-net worth businessmen from Hangzhou and Guangzhou, has purchased 130 Colmore Row, Birmingham, as a multi-million pound development opportunity.
The building, built in 1903, was once the office of Alliance Assurance. It stands alongside Birmingham City Council House and Birmingham Town Hall, both prominent civic buildings.
The consortium plans to redevelop the 5,500 sq ft Edwardian property into multi-use commercial space. The purchase has already generated interest, with an offer made for half the space in the building.
Advising the investors are Anthony McCourt and James Ng, both former property lawyers with Wragge & Co. This is the first time investors from China have bought a commercial property outside the capital which requires redevelopment; previous Chinese investment in Birmingham has been in completed residential schemes.
Ng says: “I have felt for a long time that one of the unique selling points for this project is to have a Grade A office location for mainland Chinese people to do work in Birmingham. One of my main desires is to see whether Birmingham could attract a Chinese consulate. Manchester has one, I don’t see why we shouldn’t. This building would be ideal for that.
“I am a strong advocate of 21st century China. There is a difference between China today and when Chinatown in Birmingham was established.”
Ng, who formerly headed up Wragge & Co’s offices in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, has been heavily involved with Birmingham City Council’s efforts to bring more Chinese investment in the city. His investors are already eyeing up other properties in Birmingham with redevelopment potential.
Developer Anthony McCourt, who runs property consultancy Court Collaboration, says: “Many people believe there is an opportunity to grow Chinese investment in the city. The fact we had an offer for half the building before we bought it shows its popularity.
“What I really like about the Chinese group we are working with is that they are in it for the long-term. This is a 150 year investment, because this is how long the lease is.
“They are now a stakeholder in Birmingham. They have a listed asset in the civic part of the city and now their focus is on creating jobs.”
Court Collaboration is also developing other properties in Birmingham, Shropshire and Liverpool.