Spotlight on Birmingham: hotels, venues and more
3 October 2018
As a powerful player in the UK's automotive, tech and banking sectors, it's fast becoming a city of choice in which to do business.
Birmingham's reputation as an industrial powerhouse saw it hailed as both ‘City of a Thousand Trades’ and ‘Workshop of the World’ in the 19th century, as a result of the variety of companies based there.
Today the Birmingham region is home to more than 6,000 advanced engineering companies. It is strong in automotive, aerospace and video games, and has the largest regional cluster of business, professional and financial services firms in the UK.
House prices are set to rise by 20-30% over the next four years as England's second city closes the 'growth gap' with London, while the advent of High Speed 2 (HS2) is set to slash journey times to the capital. And quality of life is good - green spaces are plentiful and foodies can take their pick of four Michelin starred restaurants in the city.
The city is expected to capitalise on the political clout of devolved government, after the West Midlands region elected its first mayor in 2017, when former John Lewis managing director Andy Street was voted into office.
With Birmingham hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games, optimism is high.
The redevelopment of the unloved 1960s Bullring shopping centre, anchored by the award-winning Selfridges building, helped kick-start the city centre's transformation. The Mailbox, on the site of a former goods yards and sorting office, is a modern canal-side development, home to BBC Birmingham, Harvey Nichols and the Malmaison Birmingham hotel.
Boasting one of the highest concentrations of businesses involved in the jewellery trade, the aptly named Jewellery Quarter is also home to other creative industries and art galleries. The redevelopment of Paradise Birmingham near Centenary Square will have 1.8 million sq ft of new offices and another four-star hotel, while there are plans for a 30-storey office building as part of the Beorma Quarter scheme.
The city centre offers more than 6,000 bedrooms, with 30,000 more in the surrounding area. Marriott's AC Hotel in the Mailbox is stylish and contemporary, while the Hyatt Regency's Presidential suite with baby grand piano and steam room is wonderfully luxurious. The Penthouse apartments in the Rotunda offer Selfridges as your "corner shop" and Bloc has announced a second city site inspired by Japanese capsule hotels. The Grade II listed Grand Hotel may become the city's first five-star hotel when the 180-bedroom gem reopens after extensive refurbishment next year. Meanwhile, a new £40m Maldron Hotel is set to open by 2021 close to the Mailbox.
Birmingham is a truly connected city with easy access from the M5, M6 Toll and M42 motorways, while Birmingham International airport is the seventh busiest in the UK with direct flights to NYC and Dubai as well as multiple short haul destinations. Birmingham lies on the West Coast mainline, though the proposed opening of HS2 in 2026 is expected to slash fastest journey times between the cities from 1 hour 13 minutes to 49 minutes. Currently, services from around the UK are connected to the city, with all CrossCountry trains calling at or terminating here. Midland Metro is adding up to 50 trams to its fleet for planned extensions.
Innovative event space
There is no shortage of event and meeting space in and around Birmingham, with venues to suit every taste and size of conference. In August, the Park Regis opened its new £850,000 conference and events space on the 16th floor boasting 360-degree views. The four-star hotel, which occupies an enviable position in the city centre, completely remodelled its 5,250 sq ft top floor. With floor-to-ceiling windows, the space can hold up to 400 people – perfect for events, conferences or celebrations – and guests who are staying at the hotel and attending events also have the benefit of a dedicated ground floor entrance. Larger venues close to the city include the NEC (National Exhibition Centre), the National Conference Centre, based at the National Motorcycle Museum, and the Belfry Hotel & Resort.
Pictured above: Park Regis Birmigham reception
Birmingham city centre is home to four Michelin star restaurants and a feast of other eateries to suit all tastes and budgets. Having gained a huge following for a local pop-up, chef Adam Stokes is the talk of the town with his impressive Adam's restaurant in Waterloo Street, which also features a private dining room. Now into its 11th year, Purnell's, from celebrity chef Glynn Purnell, offers an innovative British menu, while the Grade II listed finery of Simpsons in Edgbaston was brought bang up to date three years ago when the Georgian building was given a modern makeover. Acclaimed chef Richard Turner opened Maribel in April, shortly after closing his three-AA-rosette restaurant, Turners at 69. Guests can choose from two to eight courses from the produce-led menu. Meanwhile, TV chef Aktar Islam is already receiving plaudits for his menu of progressive Indian cuisine at recently launched Opheem.
Arts and culture
Built in 1834, the Town Hall is one of the oldest concert halls in the world and a stunning surrounding in which to catch a performance or show. Birmingham Symphony Hall celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016 and is home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The Hippodrome is the UK's most popular single auditorium theatre, home to the Birmingham Royal Ballet and featuring a mixed programme of world-class ballet, opera, drama, comedy and dance. The Pre-Raphaelite collection at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is one of the largest in the country.
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