It’s going to be quite a year – two years in fact – for the West Midlands. First comes Coventry UK City of Culture 2021, which starts tomorrow, then it’s the countdown to the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham taking place next summer. Both are major events that bring infrastructure investment and the chance to regenerate and revitalise, something that will benefit those who already live there and may encourage the new work-from-home tribe to move out of London and the south east to a more affordable area with easy access to the countryside.
Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 will run for 12 months with a cultural programme packed with music, dance and theatre to celebrate both its history and its modern diversity. Highlights include the announcement of the 2021 International Booker Prize winner in June; a three-day music festival in July led by Terry Hall, former lead singer of Coventry ska band The Specials, while September’s Turner Prize will be announced at Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, near the cathedrals.
The cathedrals are symbolic of Coventry’s phoenix-like rebirth after the Second World War and it’s hoped that Coventry 2021 will help the area – and the UK – emerge from the devastation and restrictions of Covid. “City of Culture couldn’t have come at a better time for Coventry,” says John Pugh, of estate agents Loveitts. “Following the Covid-19 pandemic, the city as a whole has been waiting in eager anticipation for the opportunity to showcase all it has to offer from medieval backstreets to multicultural vibrancy and wonderful musical heritage.
“The city’s thriving universities, bustling city centre and unique heritage has transformed it into a hub where a wide range of people can live, work and learn.” Regeneration projects include the £5.6million transformation of St Mary’s Guildhall in what remains of Coventry’s medieval streets, plus the revitalisation of Grade II listed Drapers’ Hall, which will once again be a centre for music performance and education.
An £82million project is creating a landmark building at the railway station, which will have new passenger facilities, shops and a large car park, plus a new walkway to connect it to the city centre. The Pool Meadow bus station is also getting a £1.5million upgrade. Nearby, a second office block at Friargate is being built, with Homes England and the Financial Ombudsman Service already in the first, and Coventry’s new Telegraph Hotel, in the refurbished building of the Coventry Telegraph newspaper, is opening its doors this weekend.
Outside the city centre, what’s left of one of Britain’s first car factories is being transformed into an arts hub. The Daimler Building will open in August and is part of a plan to create a vibrant new residential neighbourhood in the Sandy Lane area. Coventry’s motor heritage includes Triumph Motorcycles and the Victorian villa of its founder Siegfried Bettmann has been converted into 14 one and two-bedroom duplex apartments and garden bungalows in the city’s conservation area of Stoke Park. The villa, Elm Bank, has four apartments still for sale and three bungalows, including two-bedroom The Billiards, which features a 120-year-old wall painting by Birmingham artist Oscar Mancine in the open-plan living area. It also has the original parquet floor, fireplace and cast iron radiators, and it has a private garden.
The Billiards is for sale at £350,000 with other properties from £180,000 (024 7625 8421; loveitts.co.uk). This and other properties in the leafy suburbs suggests Coventry has always been a city of culture. See for yourself in Coventry Moves, to be screened on BBC TV tomorrow.