West Midlands business review of 2021 – part two: Goldman Sachs move, Aston Villa finances and grand reopening for hotel

Our review of 2021 moves into the spring months and the news that Birmingham’s financial services market received a boost when US banking giant Goldman Sachs announced it was coming to the city.

The investment bank eventually launched a new hub in Colmore Row in September, bringing hundreds of jobs to the business district.

The new office houses the firm’s engineering division and builds on its expansion into other locations and technology hubs in Europe in recent years, including in Warsaw and Stockholm.

It emerged in April that Aston Villa received a multimillion-pound cash injection from its billionaire owners to help keep the club afloat in the Premier League.

Its latest accounts showed how Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens had ploughed £126.4 million into the football club the previous season, helping it to remain debt free. This was up from the £105.7 million the pair had invested the previous year.

But the new financial report also showed the impact covid had taken on Villa, with the club suffering a £36.1 million hit in missed revenue due to the pandemic and the suspension of the Premier League for three months from mid-March 2020.

April marked a key milestone in the battle back against the effects of the pandemic – and in particular for the business community.

Shops, beauty salons, leisure facilities and hospitality venues were once again able to open their doors from April 12 as the next phase of the Government’s roadmap out of the covid lockdown kicked into gear.

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It was very ‘al fresco’ in Birmingham city centre after the Colmore and Retail business improvement districts worked with the city council to install a new free, outdoor seating area in Victoria Square with live music.

Just four weeks later, lockdown restrictions were eased even more when hospitality venues could once again host customers indoors.

One of the big landmark openings at this time was the 1870s Grand Hotel in Colmore Row which had lain empty for the best part of two decades.

Although the wider building complex has seen a string of tenants move in over recent years, the hotel itself reopening was the pièce de résistance.

Sadly, there was another closure though, this time just around the corner as Opus restaurant in Cornwall Street announced it would not be reopening and called in administrators.

It became the latest in a string of venues to shut down following the start of the pandemic including the restaurant’s sister site Bar Opus at One Snowhill in summer 2020.

All was not lost as the team behind Opus revealed just three months later that they were launching a brand new venue called Chapter in Edgbaston which is now open.

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A joint venture team of Mace and Dragados was chosen to build the new £570m HS2 station in Birmingham’s Curzon Street.

The development team has previously worked together on projects such as phase two of Battersea Power Station in London and high-speed railway stations in Spain.

UK contractor Mace and Spanish firm Dragados will work with HS2 in two stages to finalise the detailed design and then build the new station next to the original 1830s Curzon Street terminal in the city centre.

After much waiting and many postponements, Birmingham’s new city centre Clean Air Zone kicked into gear in June.

It was initially supposed to launch in January 2020 but was hit by a series of delays, and more latterly the pandemic, and its actual arrival was put back by two weeks to allow locals to get used to the new penalties.

Its introduction was followed by a string of negative headlines including the council actually fining itself for breaches of its own rules but proponents of the zone say it is vital to the future health of the city’s residents and workers as Birmingham continues to battle high levels of pollution.

Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone kicked into gear in June

Transport chiefs in the West Midlands published research which claimed a new direct hourly rail service to the capital and electrified lines could add £500 million in economic value to the region.

The new feasibility study by transport body Midlands Connect called for a direct hourly service from Shrewsbury to London via Telford, the Black Country and Birmingham.

It also wants to see the line between Telford and the Black Country electrified, meaning trains could run at up to 90mph instead of the 50mph to 70pmh they currently operate at.

And finally for quarter two, it was revealed that a former Birmingham pub closely associated with the city’s legendary Peaky Blinders gangsters was set to reopen.

Nick Rendall and Trevean Anderson, the team behind The Cuban Embassy in Moseley, have taken on the lease of The Rainbow in Digbeth and were in the midst of a £750,000 renovation to restore it to its former glory as a live music venue.