Birmingham is taking a breather after a break-neck development boom that has seen the city centre transformed almost beyond recognition.
The third annual crane survey conducted by property consultants Drivers Jonas (DJ) reveals little change in the amount of on-site development activity in Birmingham since this time last year ? but a pronounced shift in the development mix.
Ten cranes towered over city centre developments of 10,700 sq ft or more during the first quarter of 2004, compared with nine in 2003 - but still well below the 18 cranes recorded two years ago.
"This is disappointing, considering the wide range of sites with planning permission which are primed and ready to go", says DJ partner Gary Cardin.
"Birmingham seems to be taking a breather from its development boom now that Bullring is finished."
The latest snapshot shows that the construction mix is heavily weighted towards residential use, with seven of the ten cranes poised over mixed-use developments which include residential units and one over the Sapphire Heights affordable city living scheme.
The good news, according to Mr Cardin, is that most of these schemes offer a greater variety of homes than developments of the last few years - at last providing city homes for young professionals and first-time buyers instead of just the luxury apartments for investors and the well-heeled.
The largest of these is Park Central, scheduled to take ten years and provide 1,400 new homes as well as commercial, leisure and retail space and parkland.
The other major schemes, which include a residential element and have cranes currently on site, are the Orion Building (295 apartments), Southside (461), Holliday Wharf (148), Beetham Tower (158), Caxtongate (52) and Dean House (77).
In its 2002 survey, DJ identified a shortage of commercial development and warned again last year of a rent hike due to a continuing lack of good quality office floorspace.
In the first quarter of this year, not a single crane was building out new office accommodation and only two developments, No 1 Colmore Square and 134 Edmund Street, are nearing completion with a total of 11,650 sq m available for expanding Birmingham businesses of the attraction of occupiers from outside the city.
Commercial development schemes still in the pipeline include Snow Hill, Eastside and Arena Central all mentioned in DJ's 2002 survey, and the more imminent refurbishment of Baskerville House which is to provide more than 19,000 sq m of top grade flexible space.
Mr Cardin says: "The lack of major commercial schemes under construction is causing some concern.
"Rents could rise further as potential occupants fight over the most attractive office space.
"The year has started on a more positive note, though, with market commentators indicating an increase in the level of office enquiries over the first three months, but it will be 2005 before any more major office developments get out of the ground."
Similarly, there are no stand-alone retail developments currently under construction within Birmingham city centre.
However, while there are no cranes yet on site, work has begun on the Bullring link to New Street Station, which will create a TK Maxx store, 20 retail units and 880 sq m of selfcontained office accommodation.
In addition, revised proposals are being worked up by the Birmingham Alliance for retail-led mixed use scheme on the Martineau Galleries site as the next phase of city centre regeneration.
Just one hotel is under construction - Beetham Tower, with 220 beds and 158 luxury flats at Holloway Circus. Following the completion last year of Broadway Plaza, there are currently no new leisure developments under construction, although DJ predicts that the proposed changes in Britain's gambling laws could lead to a spate of interest in opportunities for casino developments.
In the education and health sector, two major schemes identified in the 2003 survey are still under construction and account for the remaining cranes in the survey. The #30 million Ambulatory Care Centre in Dudley Road, a joint development between Birmingham and West Bromwich NHS Trusts, is due to open in December 2004 and Eastside's new Matthew Boulton College is due for completion next year.
While the cranes have departed, work continues on 264 student bedrooms at The Heights in Stansforth Street and completion is imminent at the 350-bed halls of residence, sports hall and social facility for Birmingham College of Food, Tourism and Creative Studies.
Looking ahead, Mr Cardin believes that, with the completion of Bullring, confidence in Birmingham as a thriving European city appears to be high.
"The prospects of development slowing down further are pretty unlikely, but," he cautions, "in the short term, while we are waiting for Snow Hill, Masshouse and Arena Central to get out of the ground, Birmingham could lose out on major inward investment and be unable to cater for expanding local businesses.
"In the residential sector, developers are responding to the need for a greater mix and variety of accommodation, such as Park Central and Sapphire Heights.
"Nevertheless, there are still a significant number of luxury schemes coming forward, sustaining interest in buy-to-let properties and creating further difficulties for first-time buyers seeking to enter the market."
Copies of the third Birmingham crane survey are free of charge from Drivers Jonas. Call 0121 237 4400.