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curated selection of drinks and a 101-seat cinema which hosts newly-released blockbusters as well as classic film screenings.


Oval is conscious that it needs to preserve this unique identity while expanding the retail and leisure offer to serve the influx of new office occupiers.


Craig observes: “The existing offer has grown organically and developed its own independent personality. We want to work with that identity, encourage it and gradually help it flourish by bringing in new brands and operators which complement that.”


Given this personality, it’s not surprising that Digbeth was named recently by the Sunday Times as one of the coolest places to live in the UK, and it’s clear that the location has an important role to play in Birmingham’s wider renaissance.


In recent times, the city has perhaps not made as much progress as other ‘powerhouse’ competitors such as Manchester and Leeds, but Oval believes that is emphatically changing.


Prior says: “There are several reasons why Birmingham is having its moment in the sun, and first among those is infrastructure. The £1bn new station at New Street; the planned new city metro system; the M6 toll road; the Commonwealth Games in 2022; the runway extension at the airport: the list goes on. Obviously the big one however


Oval: the shape of things to come


is HS2. It’ll put Birmingham 49 minutes from Euston, which will make it quicker to get into the London’s West End than from suburbs like Richmond or Rickmansworth. That’s transformational for traffic in both directions and what it means for people’s live-work choices.


“Another critical factor is that the city now has progressive politicians of all creeds who want to bring positive change: Ian Ward who’s Leader of the Council; Waheed Nazir who’s the Head of Economic Development and Planning; the council Chief Executive, Dawn Baxendale; Deborah Cadman who’s the Chief Executive of the Combined Authority; and, of course, the Mayor, Andy Street.


“These people are ‘doers’. They’re the sort of progressive politicians that Manchester had 20 years ago.


“There’s a really great phrase which a lot of people in Birmingham are starting to use. They say: ‘We’re a first-rate, second city’. Birmingham has its swagger back.”


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