Author Archives: Kate

Coventry is nothing if not resilient.

Time and again it has ridden the ebbs and flow of the economic cycle and come out fighting the other side.

Even when the impediment was two nights of bombing by the Luftwaffe, it dusted itself down and reinvented itself as a new kind of city with innovations such as the world’s first ringroad and multi-storey car park.

Where once it had been ribbon, then watches and then the bicycle, for more than two generations it was the motor car when the city was home to such celebrated marques as Daimler and Triumph, Hillman and Rover.

But all good things come to an end and as the glory years of the Midlands motor industry faded, so Coventry slipped into a post-industrial malaise that threatened to leave the city in the 21st century’s slow lane.

Thankfully, the Midlands motor industry was far from extinct, it was merely hibernating. The resurgence of Jaguar Land Rover has been one of UK plc’s most remarkable success stories with the Coventry-based company now selling up to 40,000 cars every month and supporting around 200,000 jobs across the region.

The knock-on effects have been staggering. It is no exaggeration to say that Warwick Manufacturing Group, the research facility founded by celebrated industrialist Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya at Warwick University, has become a globally important hub for automotive R&D and the university continues to be one of the top 50 in the world.

Seemingly out of nowhere Coventry University has been voted the best modern university in the country for the past two years while the council is investing in the major new Friargate development around the train station which will also be the global headquarters Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors – the ultimate seal of approval for a city trying to attract the attention of the property sector..

It is a resurgence that has not gone unnoticed. Investors from near and far are now eyeing up Coventry as a city that’s going places and a raft of new development is planned across the city to accommodate the increasing numbers of businesses, workers and students who are making the city their home.

One project that is set to stand out from the crowd is The Co-operative – a proposed mixed use scheme in the heart of the city that is the brainchild of a developer that has an enviable track record for transforming the post-industrial landscape.

EDG Property was established by Neil Edginton five years ago and already has several hundred million pounds worth of assets either delivered, under management or in the pipeline and he is promising to deliver a new landmark that reflects Coventry’s new found confidence.

“There’s probably never been a better time to invest in Coventry,” he said. “When you look at schemes like Friargate, which is going to create a fantastic new gateway to the city, it is clear that there is a real belief in the long term economic viability of the city.

“We are always looking for exciting place making opportunities and projects that can improve the cityscape.  The Co-operative building certainly has the potential of being something the city can be proud of.

The Co-operative is the former home of the Co-op superstore opposite the famous Belgrade Theatre in the centre of Coventry and EDG Property has brought in Ken Shuttleworth’s Make Architects to draw up plans for the 140,000 sq ft building, the same practice that designed and delivered The Cube in Birmingham, a building Edginton developed and now manages on behalf of its investment fund owners.

A feasibility study has examined a range of options including residential, office, retail and student accommodation for the Co-operative and a planning application is due to be submitted in early 2016 but whatever the final configuration, Edginton is confident that it will be a development that stands out from the crowd.

He said: “This is anything but a straight-forward project and there is a great deal of affection for this building in Coventry in terms of how it fits into the city’s urban fabric and also what it represents as the former home of one of the city’s favourite department stores so we are very mindful of that.

“Our intention is to retain the best parts of the building and its history and really build on that with a modern interpretation that will create new value while also acting as a catalyst for further regeneration in this part of the city.

“EDG Property is about creating fantastic places and spaces and we want The Co-operative to be a development with real personality that becomes a genuine landmark for Coventry.”

While The Co-operative is one of EDG Property’s largest current projects, it is far from the only scheme project presently occupying Edginton’s time as he splits his time between developing new schemes and adding value to existing developments.

Having built a strong relationship with some of the countries largest private equity funds, EDG Property now also manages assets such as The Cube and Fort Dunlop, which is currently undergoing a multi-million pound redevelopment.

Elsewhere in Birmingham EDG Property’s The School Yard scheme in Harborne Village is on the verge of completion having worked with architects Bryant Priest Newman to transform a former Victorian school off the High Street into an award-wining mixed development that includes a thriving food school, a bar and restaurant and 13 apartments that all sold before a spade went in the ground.

EDG is also looking at two more high-profile Birmingham city centre schemes for which it is likely to submit planning applications in the coming months and it is testament to the company’s track record and growing reputation that it is now working with a number of the UK’s largest opportunity funds and banks as well as investing its own capital as it continues to look for new opportunities.

Further afield EDG is currently involved at a new mixed use leisure development in the heart of Cannock Town Centre as well as overseeing a 5,000 home development in Northamptonshire which is being built out by a number of major housebuilders although EDG is again working with BPN on a range of high end bespoke townhouses which it will deliver itself.

If life wasn’t busy enough, Neil is also chairman of Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity which has just enjoyed its most successful ever fundraising campaign after the celebrated Big Hoot initiative raised around £500,000 of much needed funds.

“The major assets under our management are also now really starting to come alive,” he said. “There will be a great story to tell around Fort Dunlop in the coming year while The Cube has now fulfilled the vision we had for the building when we first embarked on the project 11 years ago.”

“These are incredibly exciting times. As a company we are always looking for potential and those difficult and challenging projects where the opportunity might not seem immediately obvious and because of that, the schemes we are currently working on are as exciting as anything I’ve ever worked on.”

The architect practice that designed and delivered The Cube in Birmingham has been appointed by EDG Property to help transform one of Coventry’s best known buildings.

Make Architects has carried out a feasibility study on a range of options for the 140,000 sq ft building which was previously the home of the Co-op before it was  acquired by EDG Property.

The practice was founded by celebrated architect Ken Shuttleworth – who came up with the original concept for The Cube – and EDG Property director Neil Edginton said he was excited to be working again with Make on such an important project.

He said: “The Co-operative is a major scheme in the heart of Coventry that has the potential to make a really exciting contribution to the on-going transformation of this part of the city.

“Make’s track record in delivering innovative and pioneering projects like The Cube is second to none and it is fantastic to be working with them once again on what is a landmark scheme for EDG Property and the City of Coventry.”

Greg Willis, who is leading the project for Make and who also worked with Edginton on The Cube, said there were a number of options being explored but the original structure and the building’s history formed an important part of their considerations.

He said: “What is really interesting is that this building has a mass and an identity that we really want to keep and to build upon.

“From the outside we think it has a real style and a swagger so we are looking at how we can preserve that and create something really interesting.  It has so much potential for a mixture of uses and we are looking at how we can really draw on its heritage while also creating something that really stands it apart.

“This is a fine and robust building that very much represents Coventry’s post-war rebirth and what is clear is that this is not a project about knocking something down and starting again but using the best of what is already there and creating something that is not only visually exciting but will also make a major contribution to the renaissance of Coventry city centre.”

The School Yard development in Harborne has received a highly prized 2014 Renaissance Award from the Birmingham Civic Society. 

Every year the Civic Society asks for nominations from the public and its members for examples of buildings or open spaces that have been brought back into life from a vacant or derelict state and facing an unknown future.

Gavin Orton, the Civic Society’s chairman elect, said 2014 had been a very strong year and two awards had been made – to EDG Property’s The School Yard development and to the Coffin Works in the Jewellery Quarter.

When EDG Property acquired the Grade II listed Clock Tower building, a former Victorian Board School, it was in a very poor condition inside and out. However, said Mr Orton, Neil Edginton and the team at EDG Property had worked closely with Birmingham City Council conservation officers during the work to ensure the heritage of the building was retained and any new work sensitively incorporated.

“The buildings have been brought back into modern and vibrant use and the bars and restaurants have enlivened Harborne High Street and given the area a new lease of life,” said Mr Orton. “It is also encouraging to see that education will still be a part of the development with the incorporation of a new kitchen school, the Harborne Food School.”

Michael Whitby, Lord Whitby of Harborne, officially unveiled the Civic Society plaque. The former leader of Birmingham City Council and former councillor for Harborne was on the planning committee involved in the original application.

He praised the developers and architects for being true to their word and delivering the vision they had promised from the outset.

He said: “One of the dilemmas when you are actually sitting in a planning committee when you’re selling land to builders and developers is that they will say ‘this is what we going to do.’ But often, dare I say it, the original artist’s impressions transforms itself into one desk, one tree and one table.

“You only have to look outside and see this beautiful square, which I know because I visit regularly, to see that this is an area people use and walk and enjoy and meet, which is what the Birmingham Civic Society has recognised.

“The developers and the architects were true to their promise. They came to me with a vision and they said this is what we’re going to do to a Grade II listed building in a dilapidated and sorry state and the city didn’t have the wherewithal to invest.

“This could have been a mass of very ordinary flats – and it isn’t, it’s a catalyst; it’s part of the revival of the great village feel that Harborne is.”

Mr Edginton thanked the Birmingham Civic Society for the Renaissance Award. The building had been bought in the worst possible economic climate and he praised the important support role played by Birmingham City Council, then under the leadership of Mike Whitby, and Birmingham Property Services.

He is convinced the development is a catalyst for the redevelopment of Harborne, with major steelworks going up at the nearby Home Bargains high street store and the purchase of the derelict Gala Bingo Hall site.

“We didn’t want to lose this school building for the community of Harborne – we wanted to bring it back so that it could be used by the community again. We’ve done that, it’s been brought it back to life by the people that eat here, drink here and relax here every day.”

The School Yard was also commercially successful, becoming a brand that had attracted major national operators Boston Tea Party and Prezzo.

Mr Edginton added that another important part of the story was the Harborne Food School.

“I was shocked to learn that by 2030, 60 per cent of kids in the country will be clinically obese because of lack of food awareness, on the basis that schools have now removed from the National Curriculum lots of skills that we used to learn at school.

“We asked how do we link this building that was a school back into something that can help solve this problem, and that’s how the food school was born.”

He said it was a concept that was unique to the city and deserved to be rolled out across the country.

Phase Two of the School Yard project, a complex of luxury apartments adjoining the courtyard, will be completed and handed over to residents in November this year.

The building is clad in black zinc – a design concept meant to represent a blackboard, a play on the building’s heritage as a school.

Former winners of the Birmingham Civic Society Renaissance Awards include the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery’s Histories Gallery, Fort Dunlop, Birmingham Town Hall, Handsworth Park and Moor Street Station.

(Many thanks to Phil Brown of HEM Life for words)

Just a handful of apartments are now left at The Cube after a growing feel-good factor in Birmingham saw a surge of new sales over the summer.

Out of a total of 244 apartments, there are now just five apartments available for sale at the award-winning mixed-use scheme.

Apartments had been selling at an average of one per week over the last two years a significant increase in interest has seen more than 20 deals completed in the last three months.

The last available units include just one on the city wing of the building where owners can sublet the property and another four in the private wing including one of the scheme’s largest apartments at 1,100 sq ft with stunning views over the city and out towards the Malvern Hills.

Neil Edginton, director of EDG Property said the completion of the apartment sales would be the realisation of a vision that began almost a decade ago.

He said: “The Cube was the most ambitious development Birmingham has seen – both in terms of its physical structure and its desire to create a real community right in the heart of the city.

“It is now almost 10 years since Ken Shuttleworth first sketched out his incredible design and we can now take a step back and look at a building where more than 3,000 live and work, which has a hotel, a gym and spa and some of the city’s best bars and restaurants and say that the vision has been achieved.”

Neil believes ensuring that a significant proportion of the units were sold to owner-occupiers has also helped create a unique atmosphere at The Cube, which has been instrumental in selling the final few apartments.   He said: “There are apartments that have been bought by investors and are rented out but there are also many many people who have put down their roots at The Cube because of the fantastic lifestyle it has to offer.

“The variety of different apartments means we have a wide range of people living at The Cube from international students to retired couples with a love of the theatre and everything in between and that gives a special ambiance to the place that you don’t get anywhere else.

“There is also such a buzz about the city at the moment with the Mailbox redevelopment and the new John Lewis all on The Cube’s doorstep that increasing numbers of people are thinking how nice it would be to live right in the heart of it.”

A blueprint has been unveiled that is set to transform Fort Dunlop into one of the region’s most exciting mixed-use developments.

The atrium of the iconic office development has already been completely overhauled in a £400,000 investment since it was acquired by a fund managed by Tristan Capital Partners in partnership with EDG Property in 2014.

Now the building’s owners have unveiled a multi-million pound plan to transform significant areas of the site, that will include a glass conference centre on the building’s roof, a new car-park and deck, a refurbishment of the scheme’s Travelodge hotel with a new dedicated car-park and an upgrade of Fort Dunlop’s retail and F&B offer.  

EDG Property director Neil Edginton, said this was the start of an exciting new era for Fort Dunlop.

He said: “The success of Fort Dunlop since it was redeveloped a decade ago is undoubted but the new investment in the building will take it to a whole new level.

“There are more than 2,500 people who work at Fort Dunlop every day and many more who already visit the building to use the gym and the existing retail every week, but we believe there remains the prospect of driving further growth with the right investment.

“First and foremost we have to ensure the infrastructure is in place to accommodate those already using Fort Dunlop as well as the potential growth in visitors so the addition of several hundred new car parking spaces is a critical component of our plans.

“One of the real success stories at Fort Dunlop has been the hotel and we are working closely with Travelodge who are committed to a major upgrade and we are supporting that with the creation of a new dedicated 45-space car park next to the hotel.

“In retailers like Specialized and PoggenPohl, Fort Dunlop already has a unique offer that attracts visitors from across the region so again we feel that there is an opportunity to improve the general environment so we can attract more retailers of a similar stature and ultimately give people more reason to visit and dwell for longer.

“The largest investment and the element of the blueprint which we believe is a real game-changer for Fort Dunlop is the addition of the glass conference centre on the roof.

“The roof is a great space with fantastic views over the city and we are confident there is a market for a conference space that offers something completely unique for delegates. Combine this with the investment in the hotel, the car-parking, the food and drink offer, the retail and the general environment and we are creating a destination with an incredibly positive future.”

A planning application for the first phase of the works is set to be submitted to Birmingham City Council shortly, with construction (subject to planning approval), set to get underway in 2016.