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The evolving office landscape: How a new wave of business requirements is shaping the office market in Northern cities

Monday, 11 September 2017

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The property landscape is witnessing a change in the office sector; it is rapidly splintering and diversifying into sub sectors to accommodate changing occupier requirements.

Creative and digital industries, life sciences and tech audiences are clustering in cities and creating their own districts, quarters and hubs. There are examples all over Liverpool. The Baltic Triangle is probably the most obvious, early example. An area, which until recently was an underutilised, light industrial site, is now home to a new generation of artists, tech businesses, film companies and digital agencies. Baltic continues to grow and thrive and is, in turn, helping to shape future developments like Ten Streets, which will have a focus on cultural and creative uses with a view to becoming recognised as a hub for cultural enterprise in the city.

Inland, life sciences take a lead, with the creation of the Knowledge Quarter (KQ) Liverpool and the recently completed Sensor City. KQ will ultimately deliver 1.8 million sq ft of science, technology, education and health space, inspired by Greenwich Village New York. Scientists, academics and inventors are already grouping in the area, in collaborative workspaces and hot labs, sharing ideas that will no doubt inform the way the we live, learn and develop in the future.

On the fringe of KQ is the newly emerging Fabric District – an area of land once home to Liverpool’s fabric retailers, screen printers and tailors. The District is now seeing its own share of investment and is starting to deliver new schemes like The Tapestry on Gildart Street, a quirky new space finding its feet with its own thinking behind the ‘work, craft, play’ mantra, which is now very much a consideration for businesses and occupiers. It isn’t just about the 9 to 5, businesses need more creative spaces where their employees can not only work but also enjoy, interact and collaborate with like-minded people.

These Districts have a blend of retail and leisure as well as providing workspaces. Whilst Liverpool appears to have its own unique way of shaping new spaces and districts, the requirement for work life balance and a 24/7 culture is no different in other cities.

Manchester’s Northern Quarter appears to be the benchmark for all things creative and has, despite a few commercial deals being made, managed to keep its cool. But there are other schemes that have taken a leaf out of the placemaking book to create workspaces with benefits. There was a flurry of developer activity 10-15 years ago, when what were considered ‘commercial’ schemes were given a blast of personality. The most notable examples were Argent’s Piccadilly Place, Allied London’s Spinningfields and ASK’s First Street development. This step towards the commercial/lifestyle led scheme has since made way for more spaces with communal work and/or play areas, like English Cities Fund’s New Bailey and Bruntwood’s Neo building, which in turn are paving the way for projects like U+I’s Mayfield and Capital & Centric’s KAMPUS.

Whatever the city, office requirements are unbelievably diverse and we know we need to shape what we do to accommodate that. It doesn’t make for a straightforward letting deal, and processes and leases do need to be flexible but that’s where we are. These are exciting times and we need to collaborate to continue to develop and market inspiring spaces for a new generation of office occupiers.

GVA is proud to sponsor Inspired Spaces North. Aimed at the creative and digital sectors, the feature encourages businesses and individuals who work in truly inspiring spaces, to showcase them by sending their photos and videos of the schemes into media outlet Prolific North, in the hope of becoming one of the most inspiring workspaces in the North.

Stephen Cowperthwaite
    Stephen Cowperthwaite
  • Senior Director