Despite a recurring lack of grade A city centre office space, Alastair McChesney, partner and head of the office team at Donaldsons in Birmingham, forecasts bright spots on the horizon for 2006 and beyond...
The immediate supply of new grade A office space being completed during 2006 in Birmingham city centre is dominated by Temple Point and further afield by Baskerville House.
Interest in both is already high and lettings will be announced before the end of this year. In addition, several other buildings such as Number 1 and Number 9 Colmore Row offer tenants good-quality second-hand office space within the city core.
However, some older buildings do not offer scope to meet DDA regulations or tenants' increased demand for energy-efficient office space despite ambitious refurbishment programmes.
Lack of supply of buildings with large floor plates has been a significant factor in Birmingham over the last few years and will continue to be so over the next two to three years.
Some new schemes address this, notably Baskerville House where the largest floor plate is 30,000 sq ft, but others will replicate what has already been done in the past.
Our research shows that tenants are seeking ever larger floor plates to maximise economies of scale in terms of back office administration, central-ised resources and the need for large teams to work together.
This trend also makes for efficient use of leadership and management time plus addresses the increasing importance of staff security.
Levels of supply of new prime office space 2007 to 2009 and beyond are looking extremely good.
Schemes such as Abstract Land's Colmore Plaza development with an initial phase of 300,000 sq ft and the second phase of 500,000 sq ft together with the Snow Hill scheme, which will provide 500,000 sq ft of offices together with residential and hotel use, are all set to boost the Colmore Row end of the central business district.
However, maximum floor-plates are not much more than 20,000 to 25,000 sq ft in either scheme.
The ongoing development of Eastside, with its proposed media village, technology park and learning quarter will widen the city centre and to the west the proposed 7.6-acre Arena Central mixed-use department will provide further office accommodation adjacent to the ICC and Brindleyplace and will expand the city centre not only to Edgbaston but areas beyond.
Looking further ahead, the planned rejuvenation of Paradise Circus will add additional high-quality office space and bridge the gap between the convention quarter and Victoria Square and Colmore Row, and will be a much-needed boost to the city centre.
The development of the Great Charles Street site will be the biggest single new expansion of the central business district for a number of years.
It will link the financial quarter of Birmingham directly to St Paul's Square and Hockley and become a gateway for the centre of Birmingham.
The site provides a blank canvas for new development and will be seen as a bench-mark for how future development will shape Birmingham in 2008 and beyond.
With the city centre's residential population soon predicted to top 50,000, an efficient road and rail infrastructure is required both day and night to meet the demand of commuters and the indigenous population.
Enhanced services and amenities must be provided to enable the city centre residents to enjoy a complete and vibrant lifestyle.
Improved road and rail links will be needed to cater for the forecast levels of use but attention also needs to be paid to alternative modes of transport and managing traffic more efficiently.
If Birmingham is to meet the demands of being the UK's second city it needs to have a central business district to match, but it also needs to adapt to the ever-changing demands of tenants as well as a cityscape where residential and business users travel, work and live side by side.