This week, Marc Da Silva throws the spotlight on Park Central, a large development project underway in the Midlands, and puts his questions to Susan Young, sales and marketing director at Crest Nicholson Regeneration.
Tell us a bit about your Park Central development in Birmingham city centre: I could go on for hours but briefly, our Park Central development is a large-scale regeneration project located in the city centre of Birmingham. Construction started on the development back in 2003 and, since then, we have seen more than 1,000 people move into a new home at Park Central.
What's unique at Park Central is that the development offers people the best of both worlds. It's located in the city centre so is just a short walk from the many shops, bars and restaurants, yet the buildings surround and overlook eight acres of landscaped public parkland, giving people a beautiful place to relax after a hard day at work.
Currently at Park Central, we're offering a range of one- and two-bedroom apartments in our central phase called Central Plaza. Only four apartments are remaining in Hudson phase and we have just two houses remaining in our Ellis Place phase, which represent some of the only freehold houses currently for sale in Birmingham city centre.
Who are your target purchasers at Park Central? As we have a mix of properties at Park Central, it means that we've attracted a range of occupiers which is great as there's now a brilliant sense of community at the development.
Our current properties are mainly attracting young professionals looking for their first home, particularly doctors and nurses thanks to the close proximity of the local hospitals and good transport links. We've also got families purchasing the houses at Ellis Place who not only benefit from the close proximity to the city centre, but there is also an Ofsted ‘outstanding'-rated primary school on the development, as well as a playground in the park.
Additionally, Park Central has been and is still very popular with investors. It's no surprise really as our apartments in Central Plaza can achieve rental yields as high as 6.7%.
What are housing market conditions currently like in Birmingham? The housing market in Birmingham is doing very well at the moment. We've seen a noticeable increase in confidence amongst purchasers during the past 12 months. At Park Central, sales have increased by 60% from 2012 to 2013 and, with the interest we've already seen this year, we're expecting the sales rate to continue to rise during 2014. We've also seen more people using the government's Help to Buy scheme and taking advantage of the 5% deposits available.
Other than increasing confidence, why would you choose to buy a property in Birmingham? Gone are the days when Birmingham was a dark and forgotten industrial city, it is now a hive of activity and benefitting from much inward investment. Last year, the doors opened to the new Library of Birmingham, which is now the largest regional library in Europe. The first phase of the updated New Street station also opened and John Lewis is set to open next year. Work has also begun on a new metro system, designed to provide better connections across the city.
Additionally, Birmingham's position as a tourist destination is constantly increasing with the city recording a record number of visitors. It's no surprise either really with the selection of Michelin star restaurants, outdoor festivals and award-winning theatre productions on offer. With so much happening it really is a great time to invest in Birmingham.
How much does a new home by Crest Nicholson typically cost to buy? At Park Central our properties range from £120,000 for a one-bedroom apartment to £192,000 for a two-bedroom family home. All of our properties are also available to buy under the government's Help to Buy scheme, which means deposits can be as little as £6,000.
Why should more buyers consider buying a new-build home as opposed to an older property? At Crest Nicholson, we take sustainability very seriously and so all our homes at Park Central are built with the latest green technologies that both reduce the homeowners' carbon footprint and lower their household bills. Additionally, all our properties come with an NHBC warranty for ten years and are built with thermally efficient windows, individual room thermostats and all our internal lighting is 100% low energy. You simply don't get this with older properties; instead many are poorly insulated and therefore can be much more costly to run. Statistically, new-build homes are four times more energy efficient than an older property.
Is it worth buying property during the off-plan stage of construction? Certainly! Many of our apartments at Park Central are currently being purchased off-plan and it means that people have the chance to put their own stamp on the property. From choosing what tiles they want in the bathroom to the colour of the kitchen, it can really help to make a new place feel like home. Buying from plan also means that you can reserve the best plots early, making sure you get the best city centre views from your balcony!
What is Park Central's USP? By living at Park Central you get the best of both worlds. You'll find that a lot of people living in the city centre want the cosmopolitan lifestyle that it offers but they also want somewhere to escape the hustle and bustle of their working day. The development is surrounded by eight acres of landscaped parkland, providing plenty of open space for people to go for a run on an evening or have a picnic with friends at the weekend. On the other hand though, it's located just a five-minute walk from the many bars and restaurants at Brindleyplace, as well as just being a short walk to the business district and the city centre shops. Additionally, Park Central offers parking with the majority of its properties, which certainly is a rare find in Birmingham city centre.
Why do you think Park Central would deserve to win a What House? Award? I think that, in terms of categories, we would enter Park Central for the best regeneration development due to the huge impact it has had on the local community. Prior to our development of the site, the Lee Bank area was known as a notorious no-go area, renowned for street crime and poor social conditions. Now, Park Central is home to more than 1,000 people and attracts doctors, teachers and other young professionals, as well as housing many of the people who used to live in the area. We've also worked with local schools and charities, helping to create a great community spirit at the development. Even the leader of Birmingham City Council, Sir Albert Bore, referred to Park Central as the "best housing-led regeneration scheme in Birmingham" and stated that it would be "very difficult to find anything better in any other part of the country". It's certainly a project we're very proud of.