Lucan Gray has sold his share of the Custard Factory to Oval Real Estate, a privately owned investment and asset management company in London, in a deal including nearby Fazeley Studios and warehouses in Heath Mill Lane.
Nick Prior, co-founder of Oval Real Estate, said: “We’re very excited and are committed to the long term regeneration of Digbeth. We’re unable to talk about what is going to happen there just yet other than to say we’ll be following on from the good work that Lucan has done. It’s all very fresh and we’re still working everything out. We still need to talk to staff and tenants.”
Rumours of the sale began circulating a couple of weeks ago, and the news has received mixed reactions. Some tenants are thrilled at the prospect of the new owners investing into the area and buildings, others are worried that the new owners are hoping to cash-in before the arrival of HS2 in 2027.
Some tenants found out about the news by seeing it in the Birmingham Mail, which doesn’t bode well…
I personally have a lot of concerns about the news. Although Nick says that Oval are keen to continue Lucan’s work, it’s unclear whether that means continuing with the strategy of keeping things independent and small, or whether they are keen to focus on attracting bigger clients such as ASOS, Gensler and Codemasters, all of whom are relatively new to the Custard Factory.
The retail offering at the Custard Factory has always been held by independents, and the lack of chains in Digbeth is one of the things that makes our area great. Independents are thriving in Birmingham at the moment, with many Brummies choosing to spend their hard earned pounds with local businesses, ensuring that money stays in the city and is not filtered into the pockets of big corporations (who may or may not pay their taxes…).
There was speculation about potentially converting the building into luxury flats, which is a very real opportunity, and not necessarily a bad one. We’ve seen an increase in mixed-use developments around the city, which include residential, retail, commercial (office space and possibly hotels), and entertainment offerings. These types of developments help spread the risk and make for a more diverse and strong model, which could work well at the Custard Factory.
At the moment, everything is unclear and Oval Real Estate’s website doesn’t give us any hints as to the strengths/previous work of the new owners. Although I’ve spoken to a contact close to the action at the Custard Factory who is quite positive, I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve had the opportunity to talk to the new owners myself.
Whatever happens, rest assured that we’ll certainly keep you updated.