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£4.75m sale of HQ marks great future for Chamber

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) has today announced the sale of their Edgbaston headquarters to Mercia Real Estate (MRE), a privately-owned real estate and asset management business, for £4.75 million.

Leaders of the oldest and largest business support organisation in the region said the sale would enhance its long-term financial future.

The purchase will mean that the GBCC’s base will remain at Chamber of Commerce House on the corner of Harborne Road and Highfield Road.

The GBCC, established in 1813, moved to the site in 1960 from the New Street headquarters it had occupied since 1916. The offices were formally opened by the then paymaster general Lord Hills and a new reception area was opened by Prime Minister John Major in 1996.

The GBCC, which has over 3,000 businesses as members, is today made up of 10 divisional Chambers of Commerce: Birmingham, Burton & District, Cannock Chase, Lichfield & Tamworth, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield, plus the Asian Business Chamber, Future Faces Chamber, Commonwealth Chamber and Transatlantic Chamber.

David Waller, who chairs the Chamber’s 14-strong board, said: “This move secures the long-term future of the Chamber and means that it will continue to occupy its existing offices. The pension fund trustees have agreed to the sale and the deal de-risks the Chamber at a crucial time and sets up the organisation for the future.

“It means we can maintain and strengthen the widespread support we have been able to provide for businesses of all types and sizes in Greater Birmingham and beyond for many years, now under the leadership of chief executive Paul Faulkner.

“The Chamber has changed massively since it moved into the building in 1960 but has never wavered from its determination to support businesses of all shapes and sizes no matter what the political colours have been nationally or regionally.

“We are delighted to have come to an agreement with MRE. They are already Patrons of the Chamber and they have exciting plans for the building as it continues to be at the epicentre of business in the region.”

Mr Faulkner said: “The deal we have struck with MRE means the Chamber’s future is very bright indeed and it is an exciting development for our staff and members. Our Chamber has already changed and modernised a great deal in recent years, and this transaction will enable us to continue to evolve as a dynamic and innovative organisation that is continually striving to deliver the best possible business support and help our members and the business community as a whole.

“I am delighted that we have come to this agreement with MRE, despite the challenges posed by coronavirus in recent months, and it certainly proves that it is possible to keep business moving in the face of such constraints.

“MRE have drawn up some inspiring plans which include modernising the building as well as constructing new space on the top of the two wings which make up the headquarters. The plan, in due course, is for the Chamber to occupy the new additional two floors over the existing seven-storey block, which will provide a stunning view over the ever changing city-scape of Birmingham.”

Steve Allen, president of the GBCC, said: “This is really exciting news for the Chamber and our members as it not only secures our long-term future but will also provide our brilliant Chamber team with a new ultra-modern office from which to work."

Helen Bates, the Chamber’s chief financial officer, said: “The Chamber’s legacy pension scheme, dating back to 1950, had a technical provisions deficit at the last valuation of £2.1m and has had a charge on the building since 2007, when the scheme was closed. The deal de-risks the Chamber at a crucial time and sets the organisation up for the future.”

Brian Summers, chair of the pension trustees, said: “In 2007 the Chamber agreed with the pension trustees that the fund should take security over the Chamber premises at 75 Harborne Road, Birmingham, to help to secure the fund members’ benefits.

“The Pension Fund trustees fully support the sale. The resulting special contribution to the fund will significantly benefit the fund's position. The trustees remain grateful for the Chamber's committed support to the fund for the future."

MRE are a privately-owned real estate and asset management business with interests in the commercial and residential property sectors.

Other firms involved in the purchase negotiations included law firms Squire Patton Boggs and Pinsent Masons, who are also Chamber patrons and acted for the Chamber and the Pension Fund Trustee respectively, plus Dains Accountants, who are 1813 Club members of the Chamber.  

Samuel Clark, chief executive of MRE, said: “We are pleased to have completed this acquisition and worked closely with the Chamber to agree a 25-year leaseback which gives them the security to plan and continue to deliver much-needed support to the local business community.

“When the Edgbaston link to the Midlands Metro is complete the building will be ideally located with excellent connectivity to the city core and ample car parking provision just outside the clean air zone. We will be working closely with local stakeholders to identify opportunities to increase the density of the site and provide a landmark mixed-use development at the centre of Edgbaston Village.”

Pictured: Computer-generated image of how the site in Edgbaston is expected to look

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