Argent gets foothold in

Argent has bought two important development sites at the heart of the proposed 2.5m sq ft Paradise Circus development in Birmingham.

The developer has bought the Paradise Forum shopping centre, next to the city’s Central Library, from Rugby Estates for around £5m. Argent has also bought the 35,000 sq ft Chamberlain House office scheme, next to the centre, for £9.5m.

The two properties are right in the middle of the land earmarked for the £900m Paradise Circus scheme. The deals mean that Argent will now become the best-placed contender to develop the scheme when the council draws up the framework for the project.

Paradise Circus is the largest single regeneration project in the UK. Birmingham City Council first unveiled the plans in November 2000. The development site will be linked to Argent’s 1.2m sq ft Brindleyplace development on Broad Street, giving Argent a further foothold in Paradise Circus.

Rugby’s joint venture with Tishman Speyer had been trying to gain an exclusive negotiating position with the council since 2002. However, the project is now three years behind schedule and Rugby has decided against waiting any longer.

One of the most contentious issues is the proposed demolition of Central Library. The council had planned to replace the library with a Richard Rogers-designed building in the Eastside regeneration zone.

However, the cost of the proposed replacement is now estimated at £200m. The Labour council has now been replaced by a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, which is less enthusiastic about the new library.

The new council instead favours retaining the library and giving it a £30m refurbishment, which would entail even more delays as the Paradise Scheme would have to be reworked.

Argent Director, Gary Taylor, said: “There are obvious long-term ambitions where we’re hoping to play a big part in Paradise Circus’s redevelopment. Paradise Forum is a vital umbilical cord to the west side of Birmingham, where we’ve invested heavily in Brindleyplace.”

GBR Property Consultants acted for Argent. King Sturge represented Rugby Estates.
Source: Freeman News/ Estates Gazette

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