It's heartening to see early signs of recovery with the decision this morning, by Birmingham City Council's planners, to grant Miller Developments and Bridgehouse Capital consent to build up to 800,000 sq ft of offices at their Arena Central mixed-use scheme in the city's Westside regeneration zone.
Like many other developers, the joint venture (known as Arena Central Developments - the name does exactly what it says on the tin!) has used the last couple of years (which have seen a dearth in large office enquiries) to rework its plans for the ambitious 2.3m sq ft scheme (original proposals pictured above).
As we all know, city centre high rise apartments have been dead in the water for some time now, so it comes as no surprise that the original first phase of Arena Central - a 52-storey residential skyscraper known as the V Building (pictured right) has been mothballed since Dandara backed out of building the scheme in 2007.
However, Andrew Wagstaff, director at Dandara confirmed that the developer has not walked away from the scheme as it owns the land that the tower was due to be built on. Wagstaff says that if the market returns Dandara will do "whatever the market dictates" at that time. I hope this is the case as the building would be an amazing landmark for the city - but, for the time being at least, needs must...
Arena Central Development's original plans comprised up to 500,000 sq ft of offices and HSBC had signed up for the whole office element. But once again, the downturn hit and HSBC pulled out in 2008. This was a massive blow for the scheme, but not a huge surprise bearing in mind the global banking maelstrom swirling around at the time.
Arena is undoubtedly a major part of Birmingham's regeneration jigsaw and needs to get built. As the city centre's largest consented office scheme it's not going to be easy filling the space, but if there are companies out there looking for a bespoke city centre campus of up to four buildings then the scheme puts Brum firmly on the map. It's now ready to go - now where are those tenants..?
Joint letting agent with GVA, Martin Guest of CB Richard Ellis unsurprisingly says Arena Central is already "extremely well placed to capture any bespoke pre-let enquiries." He would say that, it's his job. But he is right. Oven-ready schemes like this will be the first to attract tenants once the upturn in the market hits.
Throughout the turmoil of the last couple of years, Miller has battened down the hatches in Brum, keeping its head down, streamlining its team and has gone back to the drawing board. Let's hope this strategy works. Arena Central has been a very, very, long time coming, but when it does it will be a welcome addition to the city's skyline.