Combined authority investment welcomed by new mayor

Coventry regeneration schemes awarded £3.7 million loan.

The new West Midlands mayor has welcomed investment by the West Midlands Combined Authority for two Coventry city centre projects.

Andy Street praised the £3.7 million loan by the WMCA’s Collective Investment Fund to developers Complex Development Projects Ltd to secure acquisition of two key sites in the city centre totalling 8.2 acres for major redevelopment.

The CIF has awarded CDP £2.82 million towards the cost of buying the landmark former Coventry Evening Telegraph offices in Corporation Street, plus land to the rear. This will bring forward proposals for a boutique hotel featuring a bar and restaurant, along with residential units.

The other award is £960,000 for the acquisition of the former National Grid gas works in Abbotts Lane. This 5.5 acre site is opposite Belgrade Plaza and, with a 200 metre frontage on Coventry Ring Road, is the biggest cleared and vacant site in the city. It has a number of potential uses which are being explored by CDP.

The Mayor said: “These two sites are extremely important and will, in different ways, make a significant contribution to the economic growth of the city centre. The former Coventry Telegraph site will bring something to the city that it doesn’t currently offer while the former National Grid site is of a scale that has the potential for a whole host of uses.

“What is perhaps most encouraging is that these sites, derelict for so long, are now attracting investment and this undoubtedly demonstrates the rising confidence in Coventry.”

Coventry is bidding to be named UK City of Culture for 2021 and it is hoped both schemes will be complete by then. Ian Harrabin, managing director of CDP, said: “It is unusual to find two sites of this size so close to any city centre and with such potential for regeneration. Both sites have lain empty for a number of years and were a blight on the city’s image.

“The purchase of the land has given us the confidence to work up proposals for a start in 2017 on two major schemes. This would not have been possible without funding from the CIF, which has unlocked the potential to develop these sites in time for City of Culture 2021.”

The Telegraph regeneration area of 2.7 acres became available after the newspaper left the Corporation Street offices in 2012 for a new home in the city’s Canal Basin area. The distinctive 1950s offices are a city landmark and recently featured in an Historic England book on the city’s post-war architecture. Consent had previously been given for demolition but instead CDP plans to convert them into a 100-bedroom hotel celebrating their style and the city’s post-war heritage.

The remainder of the regeneration area behind the main Telegraph offices and print rooms was redeveloped after the war for low grade industrial type uses. These buildings are planned to be demolished.

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs and regeneration from Coventry City Council and a board member of the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP said: “I’m really pleased that this money has been secured for Coventry. Hopefully it’s the start of lots more to come. The plans for the much-loved Telegraph building and the interest there has been in the pop-up art space shows just what potential it has – it will make a great boutique hotel. There is lots going on in the city at the moment and this cash is a real boost – one which will lead to even more investment.”

The CIF is a £70 million commercial development war-chest set up by the WMCA and provides short-term loans to private sector developers to enable them to get schemes off the ground. Managed by Finance Birmingham it is aimed at unlocking a further £1 billion in private sector investment over the next 10 years.

Nick Oakley, Coventry and Warwickshire LEP’s senior investment director, said: “We are delighted to support CDP in its acquisition and redevelopment of these two key city centre sites. Coventry is undergoing significant regeneration and these projects will further enhance the city centre environment. The WMCA CIF has already provided significant investment to projects right across the region by providing speculative capital funding to accelerate several brownfield regeneration schemes.”