Empty Properties

16 Dec

I was looking around the Bearwood High Street and was thinking how we happen to have a number of empty shops. I know we are in  a recession and it is difficult to start a new business from scratch but from what I heard, there have been a number of people who have shown an interest in occupying the vacant premises. This included a young man who was keen on opening an upmarket deli/patisserie, a woman who was contemplating opening a bakery specialising in cakes for special occasions,  others had considered the potential for a halal butchers, a soft furnishing store, a coffee house and a large store selling homeware. All interested parties but had to pull out due to a number of reasons : too many empty shops, not viable, business rates were too high.  When there are stores lying empty, you would think that Landlords would do more to entice new businesses, which would help boost or support our local economy. But apprently, these properties are worth more in the long term if they lie empty rather than leased on a short term basis which means the property may be devalued.

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It reminds me of a nightclub which used to sit in the middle of a very busy street in the City Centre. Tramps Nightclub was one of the number one entertainent venues in Brmingham right up until the late 80’s. As far as I am aware, it was a Grade 2 listed building, so had some historic importance to the community and the City of Birmingham. For whatever reasons, it went into decline, losing popularity and leaving the owners in debt to the tune of £1 million pounds. In order to save it, so the story goes, Peter Stringfellow showed an interest in purchasing the property, converting it into a tasteful, (lapdancing?) club and carrying out appropriate renovations, saving the property falling into disarray.  I remember reading an arrticle at the time, in which Birmingham Council refused his application to convert the Grade 2 listed building , citing the reasons that it was a “tacky idea and would bring the tone of the area down “.  The idea brought a lot of anger, the Councillors turned their noses up at the potential new business venture and Mr Stringfellow pulled out of coming to Birmingham. He would have saved the building from falling into rack and ruin. Needless to say, since then, the whole building became an ugly, empty eyesore, fell into pieces, and as a derelict building, had to be demolished to “make way for a temporary car park.” That was over 10 years ago and even now I wonder  how Councillors and the powers that be  allowed an aesthetically pleasing piece of architecture, as was, be flattened and converted into a seldomly used car park.

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The irony is that, as times and some peoples attitudes have changed, in recent years, several “tackier” lapdancing/tabletop nightclubs have cropped up within the same area and nobody seemed to have rejected the plans or objected to those particular businesses/gentlemen’s clubs from bringing the tone of the area down.

What I would like to see, in the near future, is someone or a company who has the financial resources, acute business sense, foresight, vision and practicalities to put something special back onto our High Street. If I had those elements, qualities or resources I would take the opportunity to do it myself.

As a resident of the city and consumer, I believe that having an empty car park is just a blot on the landscape, not appealing to anyone and I feel, certainly not supporting the economy or cementing a new business venture which may benefit locals or the wider community.

Which brings me back to my original point:  empty properties may be an investment in the long term and landlords may see pound/dollar signs, but  sometimes today’s priceless properties may be worthless piles tomorrow.

The Learned Kat

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