Canary Wharf could soon be dwarfed by a proposed 900 ft tower in Birmingham as Britain’s second city grows in height and confidence to compete with the capital. Add to that the presence of a Selfridges department store in the new Bull Ring complex, and the word “sexy” may yet be associated with the capital of the Midlands.

West Midlands firms report an increase in work levels compared with this time last year. Both contractors and architects have pointed to plenty of university and hospital work in the area. “It’s a lot less patchy than it has been for a long time,” says Mowlem marketing manager Richard Green.

However, the industrial sector is going through a lean spell because of the uncertainty that still surrounds manufacturing in the area. Speculative developments are also quiet, as developers are not going ahead with projects until they have secured end-users.

Outside Birmingham, contractors have pointed to business parks on the fringes of Stoke and Wolverhampton as hot spots for new development. Bryant Construction singles out the M42 corridor near Solihull as particularly busy for office space.

The general upturn has led to tender prices creeping up, with contractors pointing to 0.75% increases over the past three months. Two-stage tender work and design-and-build projects are also on the up.

Imminent major new work has led to some concerns about skills shortages in the region, with the short supply of bricklayers is a particular worry. HBG Midlands regional director Richard Dakin reckons that an upturn in the housing market could lead to a significant skills shortage.

West Midlands

It’s very frantic. The industry has exploded back into life Richard Green marketing manager, Mowlem Midlands An instant barometer of what’s going on is the number of tower blocks going up. There are six of them in the centre of Birmingham Richard Dakin regional director, HBG Midlands Key projects £800m Bull Ring and Martineau Galleries retail development in Birmingham due to open in 2003 £400m Arena Central development in Birmingham including the UK’s tallest tower, at 900 ft The £200m Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham received outline consent this month and is due for completion by 2007 Price of a pint £1.80 Price of a three-bed semi £90 000 in Birmingham