Birmingham company beats lack of contractors by forming own construction management outfit

The client behind the £75m Cube development in Birmingham has been forced to build the project itself because it has failed to find a contractor.

The Birmingham Development Company (BDC) confirmed this week that it has established its own construction company to build the project, which is the second phase of the Mailbox development.

Build Ability, a wholly owned subsidiary of BDC, will be responsible for the 17-storey Cube as well as future BDC schemes. Alan Chatham, a

co-founder of BDC and now a director of Build Ability, said: “We feel it’s the best solution in terms of economies of scale as well as overall control.”

Taylor Woodrow was appointed to build the Cube in July 2006, but pulled out in November. It is thought the contractor, which had beaten Sir Robert McAlpine and the Miller Group to the contract, could not agree a price with BDC for the cladding element.

Other contractors, thought to include Ocon Construction, have considered the project but are understood to be put off by Make Architects’ complex design.

The mixed-use development is the 500,000 ft2 final phase of the Mailbox, which has been hailed as a success in Birmingham. It will contain 135 flats, 111,500 ft2 of offices, shops, a hotel and a “skyline” restaurant that has just been taken by the Conran Group.

Chatham said Build Ability will employ about 25 people and that a project director would be appointed in the next few weeks.

BDC, which is co-owned by Alan Chatham and Mark Billingham, hit the headlines last month when it put the 2 million ft2 Mailbox/Cube scheme up for sale at £300m. The two had bought the former sorting office site for £4m in 1997.

At the time, Billingham said the company’s focus was on delivering the Cube. He said: “The sale of the scheme will allow us to focus on new projects, both within Birmingham and elsewhere. But first and foremost we will complete the Cube.”

The Cube was originally due to be complete by 2008, with demolition and enabling works supposed to start last year. It is now due to be complete in spring 2010.

BDC is expected to announce two mixed-use schemes in Birmingham before the end of the year.