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Burbs Or Big City? Manchester's Mighty Office Battle Begins

111 Piccadilly, Manchester

Bruntwood Works has fired the opening shots in what will almost certainly be the big property battle of 2021: the fight for office tenants between suburban and city centre landlords.

Bruntwood Works has launched what it claims is one of the UK’s smartest and most tech-enhanced workspaces at 111 Piccadilly, Manchester. It is the latest fruit of its £50M Pioneer transformation programme.

The upscale refurb of the 86K SF block includes a digital ‘central nervous system’ that connects a physical space with the people, processes and systems within it, and uses data to enhance user experience

Other bells and whistles include a new circadian lighting system — designed to replicate a 24-hour cycle of sleep, wake, hunger, alertness and body temperature — combined with the use of planting and greenery in biophilic design, to improve customer health and wellbeing.

Also present will be advanced technology, such as sensors to monitor air quality, space utilisation and energy usage, which will drive operational efficiencies and help to reduce waste, with Bruntwood Works trialling a proptech app to allow customers access to the data. 

Smart tech will also ensure the space is COVID-secure. The building’s digital kiosk — the next generation concierge — provides guidance and wayfinding advice to help regulate traffic and monitor footfall, as well as providing live TfGM timetable information. This is designed to free up front-of-house employees so customers receive an enhanced user experience. 

Manchester Green Business Park, near Manchester airport

Suburban rivals are making a powerful play for tenants who might automatically have opted for city centre floorspace, had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic.

Squarestone Asset Management has completed three new lettings at Manchester Green Business Park, near Manchester airport, in deals that seem to prove the point. Its sales pitch focuses on market-leading on-site car parking provision and helping to prioritise tenants’ wellbeing with “open green space that tenants can enjoy while easily adhering to social distancing measures”.

Lettings include 10.5K SF to Chiesi Pharmaceuticals, which already has 20K SF at the park; distribution and logistics firm Mainfreight UK, which has taken 3K SF; and IT support provider BCN, which is moving from a nearby property into a bespoke designed 6.5K SF grade-A office, also on a 10-year term. 

Squarestone Growth, a high yielding, value-add regional fund, acquired the 107K SF business park in April 2018 for £21M.

Squarestone Growth let more than 100K SF in its UK out of town office portfolio between March and July 2020, not large by normal standards but at a time when scarcely any deals were being agreed, a sign of renewed interest in out of town floorspace.

Squarestone Growth has one 3.5K SF suite remaining at Manchester Green.

“It is increasingly important for companies wanting to get back to the office to ensure the wellbeing of their staff is supported through access to outdoor, green space. Manchester Green offers tenants exactly this, with large, forested garden grounds,” founding partner Paul Coulter said.