The perception of Birmingham as the perennial runner-up is past its sell-be date, argue leading property professionals.
It is a vibrant, successful centre with much to offer professional employees, with quality jobs in attractive settings, and is an example of urban renaissance at its best.
According to Jamie Phillips, office agent at Bruton Knowles (BK) in Birmingham, the city is starting to reap the benefits of an economic strategy founded nearly 20 years ago by the city's economic development committee.
A broad mix of industries has ensured a stable economic base - and contrasts sharply with the unstable boom-and-bust market in London. As a result, an increasing number of professionals are seeking to migrate to Birmingham - attracted by the job prospects, thriving business and cultural communities, and a better quality of life.
Mr Phillips is one of who who advocate Birmingham as great place of opportunity for young professionals seeking to climb the career ladder.
He should know. The up-and-coming property professional migrated from London's West End to join Birmingham's property fraternity - and he is not alone. According to Birmingham Forward, the professional and financial services lobby group, 90,000 professionals work in Birmingham today and it is reckoned that figure will increas by more than 31 per cent by 2006.
Strong evidence, it seems, that Birmingham's professional community is not only thriving but is also established as a robust rival to other regional centres and - indeed - London.
"Birmingham is an attractive option for possible professional recruits. The city has not been over-heated like London and is only now beginning to reach its potential," reflects Mr Phillips.
"We have a far better blend of business and key business clusters compared to London and we are not reliant on one or two growth sectors. For example, the dot.com bubble didn't grow as aggressively in Birmingham and so the impact of the dot-com bubble bursting was minimal in the city. I'm bullish about Birmingham's future growth prospects."
What's more, the professional services sector is an area that offers growth opportunities for the relocation of certain back offices activities, such as national training and recruitment operations, management accountancy and internal audit, as Mr Phillips explains.
"Companies are waking up to the fact that back office functions don't have to take place in the capital - at the cost of #55 per sq ft. The more cost-effective option is to relocate training, recruitment, accountancy and audit staff to regional centres, like Birmingham, where costs are in the region of #25 per sq ft.
"It has taken a while, but firms are now waking up to the fact that in this economic environment, all costs and expenditure have to be accounted for."
In the meantime, the professional sector is experiencing real growth. Market evidence points to a raft of companies which are expanding more aggressively and need to take up more space.
Mr Phillips says: "Those companies which previously housed purely satelite offices in the city are now moving more and more of their personnel here from London and I believe Birmingham will benefit from this exodus. For example, Wragge & Co is looking for an extra 100,000 sq ft and indicators are that they will be taking up the Grand Hotel redeveloped space.
"Government agencies are considering relocating here - the ODPM is bidding for 5 St Phillips Place - and BDO Stoy Haywood has expanded into bigger space at 125 Colmore Row."
Reflecting on his experience of the market volatility in London and the South-east, Mr Phillips says: "From six months to a year ago, the West End market was becoming very quiet and depressed. Deals shrunk and market activity almost ground to a halt with rents dropping by ten to 15 per cent.
"The problem is that the West End relies heavily on financial services, IT and media companies - all sectors which were heavily affected by the recent economic downturn.
"There is a significant amount of new space becoming available coupled with a rise in second-hand space being put on to the maket by existing tenants as they no longer require it. This rise in availability and decline in demand led to a saturation on the market and had a direct effect on the incentives and terms being offered.
"Birmingham's current climate demonstrates the laws of supply and demand, and how to keep rents climbing when there is a downturn in the global economy.
"Birmingham does, however, now risk going the opposite way to London with a chronic undersupply of new grade A space, at which point growth will be stifled and a downturn will be created due to businesses being unable to grow or locate to Birmingham. Hopefully the market will recongise this and respond before it becomes a chronic issue."
From Brindleyplace to the Bullring, Masshouse Circus to the Mailbox, Birmingham is undergoing a speedy and spectacular transformation. It has developed beyond recognition in the last 20 years, with smart urban postcodes in the city are now highly sought-after and plush penthouses snapped up overnight at ever-increasing prices.
Mr Phillips sums up by describing Birmingham as a place where people want to live, work, study, invest and visit.
"The perception of Birmingham as the perennial runner-up is both outdated and wrong," he says. "It is a vibrant, successful centre with much to offer professional employees. It provides quality jobs in attractive settings - and is an example of urban renaissance at its best."
That view is shared by another property professional who has watched the city's rapid transformation over nearly a decade. In fact, the man, Alan Brown, and his company, Cala Homes (MIdlands), have played an active part in the renaissance.
"Birmingham is going through a period of major transformation - and I think we are now witnessing a very important phase in the creation of a new Birmingham," says Mr Brown.
"When we first set up business in Birmingham in 1995, we knew then that Birmingham was going to expand. It had all the signs for exponential growth: comparatively cheaper residential and commercial rental costs, lower property prices compared with other major cities, a stable business environment with opportunity to grow, a university offering a reservoir of talent that organisation's could draw from, and of course, a good-sized population.
"We speculated that with the increase in investment in the area, there was going to be a population boom, and as the population increases, so does the physical and social infrastructure. This then creates an economic cycle and continual growth."
It's in the vibrant city centre that the transformation is most noticeable - not least because of the city living phenomenon.
The QUBE apartments, developed by Cala, are an example of the city's changing face - in some cases offering professionals the opportunity to live and work in the comfort of their own home.
"The Big Apartments at QUBE were designed because we noticed that people were becoming more concerned about quality of life and wanted more freedom of choice.
The freedom to combine work and play without compromising either, which is why we built QUBE right in the heart of Birmingham," says Mr Brown.
The demand for city centre apartments was such that Cala decided to launch its Apartment Store in Colmore Row - described by Mr Brown as a one-stop shop for potential buyers seeking city apartments.
The Apartment Store has now become the focal point for all Cala (Midlands) city centre apartments, and has been designed to make the purchase of property less arduous by centralising the marketing and sales of all the company's city centre apartments, making viewing and selection easier.
Mr Brown says: "Birmingham has always enjoyed a long and fascinating history, which is constantly evolving and it's been an interesting experience being a part of the city's transformation - especially since Cala has been involved with some of the major projects in Birmingham.
"For example, we were involved with the redevelopment of the historic art-deco building, Britannic Park, where we designed 114 very stylish apartments, which proved to be immensely popular."
The city's residential market remains extremely buoyant and continues to attract a great deal of interest from investors who are finding it harder to secure good yields from London.
Private individuals are continuing to relocate to Birmingham from London, driven by the high standard of living offered, the exciting employment opportunities and because of the premium cost of property in the South-east.
This has been highlighted by research from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors which recently stated that rents rose for the last three months in the West Midlands but failed to do so in London and the South-east.
Ian Smallman, BK's head of residential private client management, says: "Birmingham now offers a diverse range of properties available for investors and occupiers.
"They range from the modern city centre luxury lifestyle developments such as bCentral and Centenary Plaza through to the young professional dwellings in the Jewellery Quarter and the leafy suburban properties like those offered by the Calthorpe Estate."
A quintessential example that represents the growth of the city living phenomenon over the last two decades would be Crest Nicholson's bCentral luxury lifestyle apartments in the urban epicentre of the city.
This development is at the top end of the market, targeted at very high earners and with a most prestigious B1 address.
It includes 120 one, two and three-bedroom luxury penthouse suites behind the listed gothic facade of the former Queens College Chambers on Paradise Street.
Mr Smallman says: "bCentral was established to meet the growing demand for high-quality residential accommodation in the city - and Nicholson Estates have provided a range of high specification apartments within a prime city centre location."
Right next to Victoria Square and a short stroll from the Colmore Row area, the cultural and commercial districts are virtually on your doorstep.
Luxury apartments here start at #600 a month for a one-bedroom property and range up to #1,400 a month for the larger two-bedroom homes.
Taking a closer look more at the middle market, BK's senior residential lettings advisor, Nicola Fleet-Milne, says: "Throughout Birmingham's regeneration of the last two decades, the Jewellery Quarter provides a strong example of where Birmingham's 1960s office buildings have been converted for residential use.
"The area is now being perceived as one of the most stylish and lively quarters of the city and has formed a strong hub for the young professional sector - with unique qualities and bold facades having been preserved so as to blend them into residential use.
"Although salaries do not vary that much between London and Birmingham, the Jewellery Quarter provides the younger generation extremely affordable homes, in the heart the centre, which London can't offer."
Studios at Westgate range between #450 and #550 a month and one-bedroom apartments from #600-650 a month, with two-bedroom apartments going for at #750.
Apartments at the Saturday Bridge development on Gas Street - at the rear of The Mailbox - start at #600 a month for a one-bedroom home and #750 for two bedrooms.
Larger two-bedroom apartments are going for #1,000 a month.
Essex House, another development that BK will manage for ING, provides a more traditional alternative to modern city living, with a wealth of period features such as high ceilings and sash windows.
Studios here fetch from #500 a month and two bedroom apartments from #900 a month.
Look at the fringe of the city core and you will find plenty of attractive residential areas such as Calthorpe Estates' leafy suburban homes in Edgbaston and Harborne - described as deal for young families or more mature citizens.
"You'd be hard pressed to find properties in London of this quality and this reasonably priced, that are only a 20-minute drive from the city centre, which demonstrates another attraction that the city has to offer," adds Mr . House rentals range from #600 to #2,500 a month.
"Since Symphony Court - one of the first prestige residential developments - Birmingham's overall residential growth has gone from strength to strength," says Mr .
"We are receiving a large number of inquiries for Centenary Plaza, another plush new city centre living penthouse development, near Brindleyplace and The Mailbox, with apartments being released as from the end of this month.
"Indeed, we have recently taken on a large number of new residential developments, which have been let very quickly - reflecting the strong rental demand.
"If that's anything to go by, then the future looks prosperous."