Wolverhampton Gambles That Grade-A Offices Are A Post-Pandemic Must-Have
Nothing, it seems, can deter Wolverhampton City Council.
In 2018 it borrowed £13M to forward purchase the 52K SF i9 office scheme at Railway Street, despite an office development famine in the city stretching back to the early 1990s.
Now, even as the Midlands office market struggles to grasp the implications of the coronavirus pandemic for modern workspace, the council has decided to press on with the i9 project.
If investors are right, the decision to invest could provide a direction of travel for the West Midlands office scene.
The context is dramatised by KPMG’s latest Quarterly Economic Outlook, which predicts that the combined effect of Brexit and the pandemic will be to shrink the West Midlands economy by 9.1% in 2020, appreciably sharper than the 7.2% UK average, Business Desk reported.
Yet according to investors, backing Grade-A floorspace could be a smart move as the economy pulls out of its current turbulence.
“If I have concerns about post-pandemic offices, it would not be about Grade-A but about Grade-B floorspace, because when people come back to the office they will want it to be worth the journey, and to work in a place that offers the best,” CBRE Investors Head of EMEA Offices John Mulqueen told Bisnow this week.
The i9 scheme is close to the city’s new transport interchange, and the 36K SF office element at sister scheme i10, completed in 2015 by Ion Developments and now fully let.
Work on-site begins in earnest in July. A 36-metre tower crane has been erected in readiness for the installation of the precast concrete frame and brick-faced precast external walls, which are being manufactured off-site. Groundwork has already been completed.
It is the next step in developing a new commercial quarter at the heart of Wolverhampton Interchange.