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How transformational development is helping Cardiff punch well above its weight

Thursday, 09 November 2017

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Cardiff is undergoing one of the most fascinating renaissances of recent times. There’s no other city of a similar size in the UK – if not the world – that has witnessed such a transformation, thanks in no small part to ground-breaking developments that are changing the city’s skyline.

Cardiff is unique, despite its relatively modest size. Retaining its individuality and character, it’s a capital city, a seat of government, host to international sporting events, it has shot to world-wide fame. It’s the place we are very proud to call home.

So why are all eyes on Cardiff, when other cities across the UK are also undergoing large scale placemaking schemes that equally make them more desirable places to live and work, better able to attract new people and businesses? What is it that is keeping Cardiff ahead of the pack?

In our recently launched report Changing Face of Cardiff, we’ve looked at how and why the city is experiencing this unprecedented period of growth.

Within a relatively limited geographical area, we’re seeing local authority support for high-rise building, changing the skyline. Cardiff is already surpassing similar size UK cities with its appetite for tall buildings.

For example, the 42-storey student development by Watkins Jones – at 132m - is one of four tall buildings in the city granted planning permission since July 2016 that will be higher than Cardiff’s existing tallest building, Capital Tower, at 80m. It will also be taller than Wales’ current highest building, Meridian Tower in Swansea, at 107m. In fact, the Watkin Jones development in Bute Street when built will rank Cardiff the 4th city in the UK in terms of height, behind only London (The Shard – 310m), Manchester (Beetham Tower – 169m) and Liverpool (West Tower – 140m). It will leapfrog Birmingham whose tallest building is currently 10 Holloway Circus (130m). In terms of comparably sized cities, the Watkin Jones development will also surpass Leeds, Brighton, Sheffield and Belfast’s highest buildings.

We’ve seen significant change in the offices landscape in the city too. The HMRC pre-let at Central Square – the city’s largest at 266,000 sq ft was so significant that we are heading for a record year. Other stand out deals this year have included the Church of Wales at 2 Callaghan Square; Network Rail and Cardiff University.

For the first time, rentals are standing at £26 psf for Grade A, with Grade B at £16.50 for better locations. Opportunities for new development are enhanced with limited availability of Grade A space.

Likewise, in the industrial sector, better quality space is in high demand, but with limited land supply there is a lack of space for new build, and hence limited availability. The creative sector has buoyed the market, with many estates experiencing full occupancy for the first time in many years. Better quality stock is reaching £5.95 psf, with standard stock £5 psf.

Meanwhile Cardiff’s reputation as a dynamic leisure and event-led destination is also reaching great heights. The hospitality and leisure sector is an incredibly important part of the Welsh economy and we’re experiencing positive trading conditions despite wider political and economic uncertainty.

Hoteliers in the city are benefitting, with growing demand for rooms, occupancy and average room rates. With a rising number of visitors to the city, Cardiff hotels are outperforming many other parts of the UK. The strength of trade here attracts new operators to enter the market, and encourages operators who are already present to commit to the city. We’re seeing a buoyant transactional market within the sector for larger corporate/portfolio deals and smaller owner operated assets, significant sales recently being at the Angel Hotel and Clayton hotel.

Cardiff’s destination reputation has allowed licensed operators to benefit too. We have an active market in the city with high levels of churn, with the traditional city centre circuit re-emerging, and St Mary Street undergoing a rejuvenation. The appeal of the city is epitomised with Dirty Martinis opening its first site outside of London here. We have seen, and will continue to see a plethora of new bars and restaurants - Marco Pierre White at Indigo, The Alchemist, rumoured to be opening soon, Brewhouse and Kitchen coming soon, the reopening of the Philharmonic, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.

This is a renaissance we are truly proud to be a part of.

Gordon Isgrove
    Tom Merrifield
  • Director