The Forum, Smithfield

The Forum – the first development as part of Birmingham’s huge, ambitious and landmark Smithfield project – was launched recently, with a ceremonial concrete pour by city leaders.

Based on Pershore Street on the former Silver Blades ice rink site, although The Forum is not in Digbeth (yet), much of Smithfield will fall within our area once the redevelopment gains momentum. It goes without saying that The Forum and other early buildings will certainly flavour and influence future developments, and indeed, the success of the project overall.

The Forum comprises 5 studio, 262 one-bed and 67 two-bed apartments, and is set to complete in mid-2018. When it comes to new residential buildings, we in Digbeth tend to favour those that have a balanced mix of one, two and three-bedroom properties, to help encourage families and long-term living to build a community. However, we appreciate that not all developments in Smithfield will serve this purpose.

The Forum is an interesting proposition from the private rental sector (PRS) by Rockspring Property Investment Managers LLP. The building will have 334 apartments available only for rent, in a US-style condominium arrangement. What this means is that the apartments will remain the property of Rockspring, who will own the building, while the provision of services such as a residents-only gym and landscaped gardens will be outsourced to management company Atlas Residential.

Although fairly novel in the UK, this style of living is gaining popularity all over the world, particularly in China where urbanisation is attracting swathes of people into the cities. People who might be single and not necessarily wanting to settle down still want to live in the city and have the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals while retaining their own space.

The Forum will enable those urban professionals to live alongside each other in private dwellings, but socialise and build relationships in the residents-only facilities. The hope being that this will encourage a community to flourish in and around the building, in a grown-up version of student halls.

Only time will tell if this type of offering successfully marries the rental market with a sustainable community of residents, but it is an interesting project nevertheless.

The image above from the concrete pour pictures (from left to right): Nicolas Guerin, managing director, Linkcity UK; Michael Pryer, partner – fund management, Rockspring PIM; Cllr Peter Griffiths, cabinet member for housing and homes, Birmingham City Council; Craig Tatton, managing director, Bouygues UK North & Midlands; Cllr John Clancy, leader of Birmingham City Council; Edmund Craston, managing director, Rockspring PIM.

See below for a video from the day, featuring an interview with Cllr John Clancy, and do share your thoughts in the comments section – we’d love to hear your views.

Pamela Pinski

Digbeth and Proud

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