The redevelopment of the 95-acre former IMI headquarters near the M6 has been widely welcomed.
Simon Spencer explains why the Hub is uniquely placed Demand is not exclusively domestic and inquiries from further afield - often manufacturing operations connected to the automotive industry - are frequently triggered by grants becoming available.
Right across the Midlandsland supply is diminishing rapidly. While there may be a selection of ten-acre plots available, any requirements over 100,000 sq ft have a very limited choice.
The Hub is the largest site of its kind to become available in the last ten years and will provide a strategically positioned solution for logistics operators who have been forced to look at sites across a far wider area than they would necessarily elect.
Established distribution schemes - household names by now - such as Magna Park, DIRFT, Hams Hall and Central Park, Rugby, are all reaching maturity or require further planning permission to expand. Not only has much of the available land been used, but much of the available workforce has also been engaged on site already.
The success of these parks means that occupiers have to apply the same critical analysis to the proximity of suitable labour as they do to their bottom line rental level, access routes or any of the other key factors involved in the location decision.
Traditionally schemes have been situated at motorway junctions - some distance from densely populated urban conurbations from which to source new warehouse staff. Transport and access problems can exacerbate the challenge of attracting and retaining the right employees for the kind of jobs on offer.
Fropus - a joint venture between sister companies, Frontier Estates and Opus Land -together with Prudential, respectively the developers and funders of the #150 million scheme at the Hub, had the foresight to realise that the site not only filled a widening gap between demand and supply in the Midlands, but could draw on a virtually limitless employment resource by virtue of its unique position - just over three miles from Birmingham city centre.
Current demand for the 40,000 sq ft-1 million sq ft design and build options at the Hub is driven largely by the retail sector both FMCG and food - operators such as Sainsburys, Tesco, Dixons, Matalan and M&S are all expanding, creating new and ever bigger stores across the country. Their depots meanwhile are becoming increasingly centralised. Rather than a network of localised units, they are focusing their entire supply operation in a few distribution facilities (usually between one and six) of colossal specifications.
Less than a decade ago, such facilities rarely exceeded 200,000 sq ft. Nowadays, 250,000 sq ft is at the lower end of the spectrum and 750,000 sq ft up to 1 million sq ft at the upper end is not unusual - Sainsbury, Asda and Morrisons all have warehouses of such dimensions.
Demand is not exclusively domestic and inquiries from further afield - often manufacturing operations connected to the automotive industry - are frequently triggered by grants becoming available.
In this context the Hub will be competing alongside other developments in the former Eastern Bloc including Hungary, the Czech Republic, Russia and Poland where wage levels are commonly significantly lower than the UK. European funding for regeneration can make a location particularly attractive for a foreign investor - and Knight Frank with joint agents London-based M3 will be looking at the opportunities and targeting such prospects directly through our European offices.
In the meantime some #15 million of remedial work is in progress to reclaim and decontaminate the site as well as funding essential infrastructural work with a main highway scheduled to be completed by spring 2004.
l Simon Spencer of Knight Frank is joint agent for the Hub.