Development activity has slowed in central Birmingham - especially in the office, retail and leisure sectors - according to the 2006 Crane Survey by Drivers Jonas.
Just 14 development sites were taking shape - and 18 tower cranes were at work - when crane counters took their annual snapshot of construction activity in the city - in contrast to last year's survey, when 25 cranes towered over 17 different sites.
Residential schemes continue to dominate the transformation of the cityscape - just one wholly commercial development was identified - and the independent survey charts a gradual shift of activity to the edge of what is regarded the traditional city core.
Gary Cardin, head of DJ's Birmingham office, is quick to highlight a wave of new developments in the pipeline but these won't show up until next year or even later.
"There is a certain caution in the marketplace currently, which is reflected in this year's crane survey, but the future does look positive for the city," Mr Cardin tells Business Property Review.
"Continued regeneration and the outward expansion of the city core are key points to be heartened by.
"Overall, development has moved from the south-west of the city, which showed a marked increase last year, to the edge of the traditional city core. ..TEXT: "It is also significant to note that there is a growing number of developments in the pipe-line which sit on the edge of the historical ring road, illustrating the effects of the city's regeneration that are spreading into the outlying areas of the city."
Turning to specific sectors, all new grade A office space - No 1 Colmore Square, 134 Edmund Street and Inter-change Place, which were being built in 2004 and high-lighted in the 2005 survey - is all now fully let, with the exception of two small suites.
The only commercial cranes identified in 2005 - at Targetfollow's Baskerville House - are now down and the project will reach completion later this summer. Other completions this year include Temple Point and 172 Edmund Street.
Philippa Pickavance, in charge of office agency at DJ, says: "What continues to be a significant feature of the Birmingham's office market is the lack of pipeline stock committed.
"There are exceptions - most notably Abstract Land's flagship scheme Colmore Plaza, which boasts this year's only pure commercial development, with two cranes on-site.
"The majority of other commercial space is located on ground and first floors of residential-led schemes or forming part of larger mixeduse schemes.
"This tends to be offered on long leasehold where demand is strong for smaller units of between 2,000 sq ft and 4,000 sq ft.
"Issues surround other ongoing schemes where activity has not been committed, including the commercial element of both Masshouse and Ballymore's Snow Hill, as well as at Arena Central and the much debated Great Charles Street/Livery Street site."
The £30 per sq ft mark for premium office space has not been achieved, but it is quoting rent for the top two floors at Baskerville House.
With £27.50 per sq ft achieved at several city core buildings, it is a widely held belief that this milestone will soon be reached.
Commercial property continues to deliver excellent returns to investors - slightly below equities but well above returns on bonds.
DJ highlights the office sector, where returns were 20.3 per cent, and while the consultancy predicts returns will be more conservative in 2006, forecasts are for strong total returns at around 11 per cent.
UK institutions, life and dedicated property funds as well as cash-rich private and overseas investors remain highly active in our market, attracted by the lack of grade A vacancy, the limited development pipeline and the rental growth potential.
These investors will continue to fund the wall of money which drove yields to 5.25 per cent in 2005 and DJ predicts that the prime yield will fall to five per cent by the close of this year.
In the residential sector, which accounted for 12 of the 14 sites in the crane count, there is an increase of 28 per cent on last year's data.
This appears to fly in the face of reported market saturation and slowing demand, but closer examination reveals a different story, according to Jill Astley, of residential valuation at DJ.
"The story this year shows that despite increased numbers and proportion of activity in this sector, it has in fact diversified into student accommodation and more affordable housing provision by housing associations," she says.
"Units on release in the private sales sector for owner-occupiers have been more limited than they might first appear and take-up has been slow with investors being the dominant buyers.
"In terms of pricing, the average hovers at £275 per sq ft - a figure that is held back by the number of second-hand units on the market and by smaller schemes on the city's periphery.
"This price is a marginal increase and the ability to command a premium is probably now limited to prime locations or developments."
Continuing the trend set in the past two years' surveys, no cranes are operating above stand-alone retail development. Indeed, the survey has revealed a decrease in the number of retail units being created as part of residentialled mixed-use schemes.
This picture is mirrored in the hotel and leisure markets, which accounts for no cranes following the completion of Beetham Tower.
The same image is reflected in education and health sectors, although work has recommenced at the specialist burns unit taking shape at Birmingham Children's Hospital.
Not far away, the Technology Academy on Jennens Road is soon to open, helping to establish the area surrounding Millennium Point as the city's Learning Quarter.
Asked about the year ahead, Mr Cardin says: "Despite lower crane numbers for this year, this survey still paints a positive picture of continued development and expansion in the city.
"Looking forward, we shall wait with interest to see action on a number of key sites and to see how the residential market matures.
"Eastside, Martineau Galleries, Snow Hill and the redevelopments of Peat House, Cornwall Street, and a range of peripheral sites, which will complement the outward growth of the city core, will be acid tests to the continued confidence of development in the city.
"What is clear is that developers across the city continue to plough investment into one of the country's fastest-changing cities."