Richard Brown

What Business Needs From Brum: This month we chat to Grand Central’s Richard Brown

Please introduce yourself

I’m Richard Brown, Development Director of Grand Central Birmingham, the city’s latest premium shopping and dining destination. Grand Central is the £150million project adjoining the recently revamped New Street Station, which is expected to become one of the busiest train stations outside of London.

What does your company do?

Grand Central will complement Birmingham’s existing retail landscape and other major leisure destinations and provide business growth and further regeneration in the city, in addition to creating more than 1,000 jobs. Ultimately, it will further strengthen Birmingham’s position as a leading destination for shoppers in the UK.

Is Brum a good place to do business?

Birmingham is no longer just a ‘fly over’ city as more businesses are choosing to locate here. This year sees a lot of exciting infrastructure developments emerge in the city and this will continue to raise the national and international profile of Birmingham as a hub for business and tourism. Ongoing investment in transport links and the revamped New Street station will ensure that Birmingham is more accessible which will drive investment in the region and attract tourism.

What are your biggest gripes with it?

As it stands, Birmingham isn’t seen by shoppers and the fashion industry as a key retail hub, yet the variety of retailers available to the public is incredible. Once John Lewis opens in September, Birmingham will be the only city outside of London which has all five major department stores – John Lewis, Selfridges, Debenhams, Harvey Nichols and House of Fraser – all within a small walk of one another. It’s about time Birmingham got the recognition that it deserves for its retail offering and unique shopper experience.

How do you feel your clients see the city?

We have seen vast numbers of retailers and dining outlets sign up to Grand Central with many opening stores for the first time. I think this reflects the changing attitudes towards Birmingham as a retail destination. Following the £50million redevelopment at The Mailbox and £20million of work at Selfridges, retailers are sending a clear message that they want to be a part of this landscape as it becomes the retail hotspot for 2015.

Does Birmingham offer any particular advantages as a destination for business?

Birmingham’s central location and connectivity makes it a location of choice for business. As a result of being situated above New Street station, Grand Central is anticipating an estimated 50 million visitors a year. The arrival of the HS2 high-speed train service in 2026 will make it far easier for London shoppers and air travellers arriving at Heathrow to visit the city.

What should our priorities be as a city?

Make the most of the great opportunities that will arise from the infrastructure development projects due to be launched this year.

If you had £1bn to spend on improving Brum what would you do with it?

I would like to see a greater investment in the arts with a growing cultural offer in the Southside of the city to further regenerate this part of Birmingham. I would also invest funds to implement a transportation scheme to free up traffic in and around Birmingham. It would be great to see an underground system in Birmingham connecting the wider regions to the city too!