Birmingham City Council-owned Birmingham Science Park has selected Stourport-on-Severn headquartered Thomas Vale Construction Ltd as the joint venture partner for its £35 million Digital Plaza development. The decision concludes the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) selection process, which commenced in November 2011, with over 80 initial expressions of interest.
A highly innovative funding model will enable the first Digital Plaza building – iCentrumTM – to be built speculatively, ending a four year drought of no purely speculative office development in Birmingham. The first building has an estimated construction cost of £7.5 million and will take 12 months to build.
The Science Park’s flagship Faraday Wharf building (completed in 2001) will be upgraded and linked to iCentrumTM via a first floor bridge. A detailed planning application for the 30,000 sq ft iCentrumTM building, together with an outline application for the rest of the 120,000 sq ft Digital Plaza development will be submitted later this summer. Subject to planning approval, work will start on site before the end of 2012.
Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council said: “Investment into Birmingham Science Park is one of the City Council’s key objectives. It is critical that we support entrepreneurial talent, diversify our economy and create new high value jobs. Now 30 years old, the Park’s reputation for success is growing on an international stage, and the Digital Plaza development will ensure the innovation spotlight is shone on this city.”
Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Birmingham Science Park said: “As the economy continues the slow climb out of recession, it is tremendous news that Thomas Vale Construction’s proposals will enable us to deliver the first Digital Plaza building speculatively, while also linking with – and investing into an upgrade of – our flagship Faraday Wharf building. To think that work could start on site before the end of this year is very positive, as it is imperative that we meet the needs, aspirations and work patterns of the city’s rapidly growing number of talented and innovative tech entrepreneurs.”
Birmingham Science Park is the gateway to the Eastside learning and knowledge quarter. The Digital Plaza site is accessed off Holt Street/Enterprise Way and A38 Aston Expressway. The Science Park’s vacant development plot has been identified within the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP’s Enterprise Zone proposals, which covers 26 sites within the Big City Plan area. The Digital Plaza will be one of the first Enterprise Zone developments to get underway and enable its future occupiers to benefit from Business Rates relief.
The Digital Plaza will be financed through a Special Purpose Vehicle, which will secure the funding for the first building. Thereafter, the subsequent buildings are likely to be built-out on a pre-let basis, unless improved market conditions – or the level of success from the iCentrumTM building – allows for further speculative development. The Thomas Vale funding model enables Birmingham Science Park to retain full long-term control of its interests, assets and objectives.
143 year old Thomas Vale Construction, which has an annual turnover in excess of £250 million, has recently been acquired by French construction giant Bouygues Construction. The majority of Thomas Vale’s major contracts are located within the Midlands region.
Tony Hyde, Managing Director of Thomas Vale Construction said: “Having such deep roots with Birmingham, we are proud and excited to have been selected to deliver this partnership project.
“Teamwork, ethical delivery, innovative design, local job creation and modern methods of construction will be the key principals of the development of the Digital Plaza, which will quickly become a symbol of Birmingham’s ambitions as an entrepreneurial city. It will bring together agile and smart working environments with the business incubator culture that is already being developed at Birmingham Science Park.”
The Science Park’s Entrepreneurs for the Future incubation facility, launched two and a half years ago, has already created 58 new companies, with 111 employees and directors. To extend and complement this activity, iCentrumTM may house a variety of industry-led incubators to drive new innovative businesses in the key sectors of the regional economy.