Posted 30 April, 2013 OBI BLOG
In 2012, we as a business, started and finished one of most enjoyable projects to date: Tower 12, Spinningfields. We launched to the property market in late 2011 the concept of this new workspace within Manchester city centre – more specifically within the Spinningfields district, previously renowned for large corporate office occupiers. Our client, Allied London wanted to create innovative, inspirational and motivational workspace in a typically corporate location. Mike Ingall CEO of Allied London said at the outset: “I want to create a different market for Spinningfields and attract different sectors of industry; we are responding to the current emerging new business sectors. I want to create something different and a product we can market as a point of difference.”
We launched to the property market in late 2011 and the the concept was met with much scepticism – it was clearly too ‘edgy’ for most property professionals. We undertook tours before work commencement and agents looked in amazement when we were talking about retaining and exposing the original concrete waffle ceiling and stapling fan coil units to the underside of the soffit…… “what, you are not putting a suspended ceiling in?”
What was needed to make Tower 12 a success? Firstly, you need a client that “gets it”, Mike Ingall was passionate about the design and the concept was certainly his vision. Mike said “primarily I want to create the sort of space I would like to work in, that gives a sense of space and creativity and helps inspire people in what they do. The other ingredients required were:
1. a fired up agency team that can pre-let space by selling concept and the future vision for offices
2. an interior designer that embraces this type of new, unconventional workspace and works with occupiers to ensure their brief is satisfied within the floor space
3. a project manager who can value engineer the contract sums to make the scheme financially viable and one that can fast track tenant fit outs on time within budget.
OBI fulfilled the above roles and this resulted in 40,000 sq ft of office space being let prior to the refurbishment works completing.
We positioned the building as best in class within the market: we produced the best marketing particulars (far too big and heavy to throw in the bin), a bespoke website, video promotion and stylish hoardings (no boards and no agent logos!). We successfully used social media and the marketing went hand in hand with the PR campaign.
The workspace was thoughtful, memorable and innovative but the specification was as good as any refurbished office building in the city. The space benefited from micro raised access floors (enough void for Cat 6 data cabling to be accommodated), 10 independently controlled VRF fan coil units, new glazing and LG7 pendant light fittings.
Dominic Horridge, head of building consultancy acted as project manager on behalf of Allied London. He said: “the design and configuration of the floor plate was a major key to the success of the building – we designed a floor plate that could be sub-divided to meet any size requirement from 1,000 sq ft upwards through providing dual access to the WCs and a communal shower on each floor.”
Ingall commented “I guess I carry a sense that we have all been guilty of over design in the way the industry designed office buildings and not enough attention has been given to the internal physical feel of the building. I was also keen to maximise the light in the workspace.”
The Way it Works…..
We were sole leasing agents and therefore we could retain confidentiality; in the early days of the leasing process, we had converted three lettings without any competitors knowing. Then word broke that Tower 12 was on the list of a number of occupiers seeking new offices within the city. The next thing we were hearing on viewings was that “the air conditioning didn’t work”, “it is impossible to sub-divide”, “issues with acoustics between floors”, “the management is poor” and so on….. It was evident that competitors were doing their best to persuade occupiers against this new style of workspace.
So, we worked harder. Viewings became much more than a simple agent presentation and we undertook inspections with a full complement of our team which included agent, designer, project manager, contractor, management surveyor and even the client……!
We also produced a fit out booklet for tenants. ‘The Way it Works’ showed a prospective occupier how flexible the space was and how easy / cost effective the workspace was to fit out. The booklet provided illustrations of ceiling details, partitioning, fixings to window mullions and how the air conditioning can accommodate sub-division.
The really interesting fact was the occupier mix – Tower 12 attracted digital marketing agencies and software designers but also traditional office occupiers such as insolvency practitioners, private equity houses, barristers and lawyers. It was proof that the occupation market in Manchester is in tune with a new way of working and many do appreciate the importance of providing their staff with an inspiring and bright working environment.
We attracted 11 new office occupiers at rents that exceeded the levels adopted within the development appraisal. We also let the space faster than any other office refurbishment undertaken in Manchester during recent times.
Dominic added “We were project managing three or four tenant fit outs at the same time as we were completing the landlords works – it was challenging but as we could we deal with design issues in-house, we made sure every tenant got in on time.”
OBI designed and project managed 10 out of the 11 tenant fit outs. James Scott of OBI worked on the layout plans and interior finishes. He was passionate about the building from day one and he stated “Tower 12 was an inspiring project to work on – it was very refreshing working with occupiers from all sorts of business sectors that were true brand ambassadors and had a desire to push the conventional boundaries of office design. These tenants recognised the importance of creating interesting places to work and promoted collaboration amongst staff.”
The simplicity of the building enabled occupiers to create a true business identity via their fit outs, which were also cost effective to procure. Due to the extent of the due diligence we undertook with the landlord on the base specification, we believe that Tower 12 offered fit out savings of circa 20% when compared to competing buildings within the marketplace.
Tower 12 was a great success and a really enjoyable instruction for the OBI team to work on. We worked closely with a pro-active and forward thinking client and delivered results in all aspects of the project. Mike concluded “Now its completed, I am keen we build on this type of product and create similar space for various sectors that now want to come to Spinningfields.”
On to the next one…….