The OBI team was delighted this month to act on Manchester’s largest office deal in 16 years, which will see Booking.com move into 222,000 sq ft of space at the Manchester Goods Yard, within Allied London’s St John’s estate.
The good news for Manchester is that this a sign of things to come, representing the kind of space that a growing number of high-growth, high-energy tech-linked businesses want to occupy. OBI works with a number of businesses that, although not technologists themselves, are inherently tech-enabled. This means that they need a broad pool of educated, sparky talent – the technical types yes, but also marketers, thinkers, creative people in all areas.
Manchester is ticking those boxes not just for Booking.com, but others like THG, like AutoTrader, like AO.com. All these and more have made major investments in their workspaces as they seek to attract the best staff, and to give them an environment that allows them to work at their best.
As tech-enabled businesses like these grow, what we’re seeing is a demand for campus-style accommodation. Space in which a number of purposes can be served, space that can be branded in the purest sense, giving an occupier the ability to put its brand and values at the very core of its space, not just a logo on the wall.
With existing buildings, how much you can do for customers is often dictated to by the constraints of the environment – the size of the floorplates, the ability to put in new facilities. In most cases, you can’t affect anything outside the building, or in its common areas, at all. A campus of your own allows to shape things beyond four walls, in a physical and mental sense.
Committing to these significant amounts of space is a sign of maturity, solidity and long-term commitment by the types of companies that are rapidly becoming huge employers.
Booking.com will occupy the Manchester Goods Yard and be a key part of the Enterprise City ecosystem. The move means 1,500 staff will transfer from the business’s four existing locations in Manchester, with 200 further staff joining. There is scope for further growth to be accommodated at Enterprise City.
The move will represent a £100m investment in the city, becoming the global headquarters for Booking.com’s ground transport division.
At present, the business occupies space in four locations in the city, as a result of rapid growth combined with finding that Manchester works for them – they’re in 201 Deansgate, Sunlight House, and two buildings on Fountain Street. Within those spaces, they’ve done what they can to put their stamp on things, but a globally recognised brand needs something special, something bigger.
So how much more of this can we expect to see? Notwithstanding the ups and downs of wider political and economic ups and downs, the sky really is the limit.
Manchester is getting the fundamentals right, and is attracting more of the upcoming, high-growth businesses than its rivals. Success can breed success – it’s the job of us as property professionals to help steer things and support those who can give the entrepreneurs what they need.