Commercial operators at the #80 million Broadway Plaza scheme risk being left out in the cold as Birmingham's booming leisure sector continue to hot up, warns a leading business property adviser.
His warning comes at a time when the Second City - with its highest concentration of live theatre outside London, one of the largest night clubs in the UK, and Europe's largest cinema complex - seems to have everything going for it, including the knowledge it is up with the best in the running to become the European Capital of Culture 2008.
But Ian McPhillips questions if the rapid response by developers and operators to provide the public with more and more leisure activities is turning the city into a cohesive whole or a fragmented jigsaw of leisure-time opportunities.
There is no doubting the demand is there, according to Ian McPhillips, retail and leisure partner at BK.
Twenty-three million people visited the city in 2000 and spent some #760 million in its theatres, cinemas, restaurants, pubs, clubs, not to mention the now-famous 13 lap dancing establishments.
In addition to visitors, there are the huge number of resident and transitory students and the working population, all of who expect to be entertained and to entertain business contacts and friends both at lunchtime and throughout the evening from early to very late.
On top of that, more than 50,000 new jobs are forecast to be created in the city centre alone in the next ten years, resulting in large numbers of workers eager to make use of the after-office-hours facilities the city has to offer.
Mr McPhillips sees certain areas of the city going great guns on the leisure front as visitor numbers are expected to grow year on year.
But he questions whether certain areas may be left out in the cold - his main concern being the #80 million mixed leisure, retail and residential development at Broadway Plaza.
According to Mr McPhillips, it may end up like Star City, which he describes as "primarily an attraction for local youths with no real disposable income to spend in the outlets which then themselves prove to be a barrier to attracting other users".
"Broad Street is undoubtedly still most sought after by the city's leisure operators, with visitor numbers increasing now on Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as throughout the rest of the week in its establishments," says Mr Phillips.
"Recent rent rises reflect this, with an average of #28?per sq ft, rising to more than #30 in one or two choice locations."
High rentals are starting to have some effect on tenants, with a high turnover of some establishments in the fast-moving, ever-changing world of leisure as operators look to keep ahead of the latest trends.
He cites a number of casualties, the best-known being Ronnie Scotts, which has re-opened as another lap dancing club.
But, he feels, Broad Street will be boosted by the arrival of Risa, with six bars and dance areas, and comedy club Jongleurs at the end of June.
However, is Broadway Plaza a step too far to capture the city centre energy?
"Broadway Plaza is being hailed, especially by its developers, as the natural extension to Broad Street," says Mr McPhillips.
"But four years in the making is a long time in leisure, and its drawn-out development period has seen the construction and establishment of the Richardsons' popular Five Ways cinema and leisure scheme, which marks a natural end to Broad Street."
Broadway Plaza is the biggest commercial leisure project on site in Birmingham.
But Mr Phillips expresses concerns that its separation from Broad Street by a good walk and busy dual carriageway, which can be crossed through a 1970s underpass, may turn Broadway Plazaundefineds location, squarely in Ladywood, into a handicap when it comes to attracting visitors.
"Some operators doubt that it can pull visitors away from the more accessible Five Ways and the cityundefineds many other attractions," Mr Phillips adds.
That fear is rejected by Kate Bennett, Broadway Plaza development manager, who would rather that operators viewed it as the gateway to Broad Street.
The proof is there, she says.
Now that the 20-lane Wessex Bowl bowlplex and pool hall, the #4undefinedmillion Esporta health club and the 12-screen AMC cinema complex have been signed up, other operators are joining them and the site should be at least 75 per cent let by its scheduled opening in October, she says.
Broadway Plaza expects some 20 operators in retail, restaurant and bars to take lettings at the site, home also to 114 apartments to be built by CALA Homes.
Of enormous benefit to Broadway Plaza, says Ms Bennett, is the 1,400 underground parking spaces.
A new pedestrian crossing will be put in place across Ladywood Middleway, close to Broad Street.
"We are not Mailbox or Broad Street," says Ms Bennett. "We appeal to a different market. This is going to be more family entertainment, somewhere parents can take their children in the day and evening.
"And in the evening, if people come to Broadway Plaza for a meal or to use the facilities, it will be a different experience to the Mailbox.
"It all depends what people want. Not only is it a destination in its own right, it is linked quite nicely to Broad Street."
However, Mr Phillips feels it is more realistic to see Birminghamundefineds leisure offer extend eastwards, via the Mailbox, to reach out and join up with the cityundefineds other main leisure district around Hurst Street undefined known for an eclectic range of entertainment, from the Chinese and gay quarters to the Hippodrome, Glee Club and range of clubs such as Ice Bar and Zanzibar.
Rents here are around #15 to #20undefinedper sq ft undefined levels which, according to Mr Phillips, are making this area ever more attractive to new operators.
Plans are being drawn up for a mixed-use scheme for B5 Southside, the Gooch Estateundefineds site on Hurst Street opposite the Arcadian, to include bars, restaurants, and other leisure uses.
With Mailboxundefineds leisure offer growing and its connecting pedestrian thoroughfare to Broad Street via the canal towpaths becoming ever more established, the question remains how to link the Mailbox and Hurst Street to provide Birmingham with one long, unbroken leisure strip.
"As so often, the answer to the future lies in the past," says Mr McPhillips, pointing to the fact that some 15 years ago John Bright Street was at the heart of Birminghamundefineds leisure industry.
It was a lively combination of pubs and clubs and anyone who drank in the city in the 1980s visited John Bright Street.
"However, leisure operators in John Bright Street did not respond to the development of Broad Streetundefineds wider and more modern offer and, with dwindling visitor numbers and a lack of investment, John Bright Street has truly become the street which time forgot."
Yet, though clearly suffering from under-investment from current operators and almost deserted during daylight hours, John Bright Street boasts the most cutting leisure edge venue in the city.
Hundreds travel from far afield every Saturday night to dance at Sundissential at Club DNA.
Developers have not been slow to recognise the potential of the surrounding area, which is a stoneundefineds throw from New Street station.
"Current operators of the clubs and pubs on the street are finally beginning to wake up to the new potential of John Bright Street as the lynchpin which in the future will hold together Birminghamundefineds two leisure areas into one combined leisure strip," says Mr Phillips.
"When this happens, then we will have truly gone back to the future."
But with a little imagination there was no reason for any development to fail says Ian Ward, Labour councillor for Shard End and Cabinet spokesman for leisure, sport and culture.
The investment on Broad Street had detracted from John Bright Street, he admits.
But given further investment in John Bright Street there was the real possibility that it would once again draw visitors in large numbers and act as an attractive addition and extension to the Broad Street attractions.
Eastside, the learning quarter with Millennium Point, home to the proposed new library and with plans for a range of bars and cafes, will also be a magnet to visitors, says Mr Phillips.
Water taxis could ferry the public from one area to another and in so doing make use of the cityundefineds canal network and provide links between Broad Street, Brindleyplace and Eastside while offering the opportunity for further canalside development.
Star City, with its 30-screen multiplex cinema complex, Megabowl and themed restaurants sitting two miles north of the city centre did have a problem of location, he felt, but not one that couldnundefinedt be overcome.
"Star City is stuck out on the Spine Road undefined but the way to get that working is to get hotels on site, to develop the vacant sites," says Mr McPhillips.
"Then the place would begin to draw people in. I am optimistic about the future of the leisure industry in the city. Birmingham has a good track record of getting major developments right."