UrbanPlan UK 2016-17 Programme Takes Shape
After a very successful first year delivering UrbanPlan UK in 24 schools and reaching 500 pupils, we are now turning our attention to the ne
To mark the beginning of the ULI Midlands Young Leaders, Gowling WLG kindly hosted the inaugural event, a Lunch & Learn session with Richard Probert, Development Director at Ballymore Properties. The event gave a chance for young leaders in the Midlands to discuss with Richard his involvement in the development of ‘Snowhill’, an iconic office development in Birmingham City Centre, and the location of the event itself, held in Two Snowhill.
The event was attended by Young Leaders from both public and private sectors, working in areas ranging from law and real estate to planning and development.
Richard began by speaking about the rich history of the Snowhill site, originally being home to the Oppenheimer Glass Works and the scene of Birmingham’s last public hanging, before becoming the destination of rail travellers arriving into Birmingham at Snow Hill Station. Yet, with the rise of the car and the “knock it down and start again” approach that characterises Birmingham’s history, Snow Hill’s fortunes declined, with several poor decisions and poor developments creating an uninviting and wasted space.
Despite these hindrances to the Snow Hill area, Richard and Ballymore saw a unique opportunity to create a new, high quality development that would serve as a gateway to the city. Richard outlined the unusual approach taken by Ballymore to start work on all three phases of Snowhill increasing the risk associated with this high stakes development. However, the development was soon hit in 2008 by the recession, forcing them to “stop pouring” cement and halting development on the site. This left Ballymore facing several challenges and hurdles to bring the development forward. However, with a good land bank and strong management they were able to face these challenges and recover, leaving them in a position to continue work on the Snowhill site.
With One Snowhill completed in 2010, Two Snowhill completed in 2013, and work now starting on Three Snowhill, Richard spoke of how unique design, high quality grade A office space and good public realm has created the ‘Snowhill’ brand and led to One and Two Snowhill being fully occupied and a centre for business and leisure.
Richard then took questions from the young leaders who picked up on a range of topics including the future of Three Snowhill, how to improve public/private sector relationships and the future of Ballymore. It was interesting to hear Richard’s focus on attracting occupiers through high quality buildings with large floor spaces and their original thoughts of creating a public viewing platform. Richard urged the need for local authorities to act as one single body when working with developers and also the opportunity for more high quality office and living space in Birmingham. All the young leaders were delighted that Richard shared his experience of Snowhill and his wider views on the market and future of Birmingham.
The event was a great success, with thanks given to Gowling WLG for hosting the inaugural Young Leaders event. A big thank you to Richard for taking the time to meet all of us and answer our questions.
Words by John Dixon, Birmingham City Council