Chesterton's staff are about to enjoy the fruits of a #2.9 million refurbishment of their Colmore Row offices.
The choice was simple enough. Do nothing, tart up the premises with a lick of paint and some minor work here or there or go the whole way and refurbish the entire building from top to bottom.
In the event, Chris Sinclair, Chesterton's regional director in charge, asked his board to approve the most expensive - and disruptive - option. His request got the nod, work began last December and, many months later, Mr Sinclair and his team are getting ready to move into the top two floors of 84 Colmore Row.
From the outside, it's hard to spot the difference - scaffolding aside. Inside, it's a very different story. The shell of the building has been preserved but the interior has been transformed to such an extent that it almost amounts to a new-build.
And a complicated new-build at that because it's been business as usual for Chesterton staff while the #2.9 million revamp has gone on around them.
Now they are counting off the days until they move into their upmarket open-plan offices - and office agency staff are rubbing their hands of the prospect of marketing the ground, first and second floors - they are being sub-let and will be ready for occupation from August.
Mr Sinclair says: "Since the building required internal modernisation as well as external repairs to the stonework, we decided to invest in a complete refurbishment. This will provide superb office space for our staff and provide an income from the sub-let of the ground and first floors."
Supervised all the way by Chesterton's building surveying team, the list of major chores is impressive - ranging from a new air conditioning system and the installation of a new lift shaft to infilling the original light-wells to create room for swish new toilets.
When the construction team turned its attention to the Edwardian stonework they were presented with an interesting challenge, which meant turning to new technology and help from property consultant Wakemans.
"The steelwork inside the stone was found to be rusting in places so we are using cathodic protection, which entails the use of the latest electronic technology, to arrest the rusting process," says Seinde Balogun, regional director at Wakemans.
Creative thinking also came into play at a staff level - Chesterton has used the refurbishment as an opportunity to rethink the way its people work.
"Our new office accommodation will incorporate a more flexible approach to office space," says Mr Sinclair.
"Surveyors spend an average of 60 per cent of their time out of the office and often do not need a dedicated desk. To make more sensible use of our space, we have incorporated an element of hot desking into the new floors.
"Our surveyors will be encouraged to arrange their working day to suit the needs of their diaries by avoiding peak traffic times, working from home and picking up messages and e-mails at their leisure, rather than having to be in the office to carry out these functions."
The new-look office space includes a suite of meeting rooms and a hospitality kitchen with facilities for guests, as well as a new staff bistro and relaxation area. There are several break-out areas where informal meetings can be held between staff, and a new library area.
As Chesterton's office agency team starts the job of marketing the building's first three floors, another property professional highlights the growing importance of refurbished building - especially at the smaller end of the market.
According to Simon Quantrill, partner at the Birmingham office of Knight Frank, these smaller deals remain a crucial part of the Birmingham market.
His comments come at a time when much of the focus is on glamour instructions like the Royal Bank of Scotland's letting at Brindleyplace.
Mr Quantrill reels off a list of other major projects such as Five St Philip's Place, which was launched in mid-April; Interchange Place, which will be ready for occupiers in the summer; and 134 Edmund Street, which will be completed in autumn 2004.
"There are a host of major city centre developments that have been the talk of the town for years. Schemes such as Arena Central, Baskerville House, Snow Hill and Eastside have enjoyed their place on agendas city-wide, but thankfully, they now look set to see the light of day," Mr Quantrill tells Business Property Review.
"These schemes primarily cater to one audience - the big player. Demand from major occupiers remains strong but we should take heed.
"There is a danger that we are so busy basking in these high-profile schemes that we could forget about the bread and butter of the property market - the occupier who needs up to 10,000 sq ft.
"We should not forget that it is these smaller deals that make the take-up figures stack up and keep us, and the economy, in the black."
As Mr Quantrill points out, last year's office take-up figures were dominated by a single letting to Royal Bank of Scotland - limited availability of quality sub-#20 per sq ft space being a factor at a time when grade A buildings command rents of around #27.50 per sq ft.
He says: "In recent years companies with large office requirements have not moved out en masse into new buildings, therefore freeing up potential buildings for multi-occupation, and those who have taken space have been on a pre let basis meaning a significant lead-in time before existing space is vacated and refurbished.
"It is our expanding indigenous companies who are demanding smaller good quality space together with high standards of working conditions that are so high on the agenda of any move.
"Positive staff, a healthy work environment inside the office and facilities for staff to use at lunch and pre/post work hours combine to make a recipe for success.
"The availability of space is not the only issue. High rent is another. Smaller players can't always afford premium rents. What they do need is a quality address to satisfy client image and accessibility. This does not mean second best.
"Quality of office accommodation remains paramount and occupiers quite rightly demand more than a lick of paint on a building that is marketed as refurbished.
"Quality does not necessarily command premium rents. Despite the relative inactivity of these types of refurbishment over the last 12 months or so, there are a number that have been undertaken recently."
His cites examples such as York House, which offers 21,416 sq ft of refurbished space on Great Charles Street with clear floorplates and a radically updated reception area.
According to Mr Quantrill, the first letting for this refurbished building was agreed in recent weeks, with 2,193 sq ft on the ground floor going to the National Deaf Society.
"The reception area was the first area they saw and it left a lasting impression. Without the change in reception appearance this letting just would not have happened," says Mr Quantrill. Suites ranging in size from from 1,500 sq ft upwards are available.
Berwick House is a similar building on Mr Quantrill's list. Two 5,000 sq ft refurbished floors overlooking Livery Street are already on the market and further refurbishment of the reception area is planned.
Kensington House, in Suffolk Street, is enjoying a multi-million pound refurbishment that includes a new name, Domain. The sixth floor offering 6,700 sq ft of space has been completed and work is now starting on the new reception area.
Mr Quantrill adds: "There is a shortage of this type of space but the gradual expansion of the city centre core is providing new opportunities. Offering a natural link from the traditional centre, through Brindleyplace and up to Five Ways, Edgbaston is reinventing itself with multi-tenanted buildings which are ripe for refurbishment and, with lower rents, are simply perfect for the smaller occupiers."
The refurbishment of the reception area at Lyndon House on the Hagley Road begins in June and, according to Mr Quantrill, this will transform the image of the building.
The Ciba Building, also on the Hagley Road, is an excellent example of successful refurbishment and is reaping the rewards.
"This building has been sensitively refurbished to provide good clear floorplates and an attractive glazed reception area offering suites from 1,500 sq ft upwards and offers an innovative, contemporary working environment which includes a coffee bar," says Mr Quantrill.
"Although currently we have a fairly temperamental business climate, the lifecycle of companies will continue. Small to medium-sized companies who need small to medium sized space have to be catered for.
"They often do not wish to pay premium rates for grade A office space even if it is made available in such sizes. These companies do remain a very strong part of the backbone of our city and regional economy and for the health of Birmingham there needs to be a good mixture of the type of space needed."
His sentiments are shared by John Hammond, of Grenville Smith & Duncan, sole agents for The McLaren Building, the landmark 20-storey tower at the gateway to the Eastside redevelopment area which is re-launching after the completion of a #1 million refurbishment by landlords, the Birmingham Alliance.
Floors 15-20 - some 34,000 sq ft of air-conditioned, high-quality office space - are now available at a rental of #14.50 per sq ft on lease terms of five years-plus.
"Any office occupier seeking premises in the city's core would be hard pressed to find this quantity of newly-refurbished office space at such an attractive price," says Mr Hammond.