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How Serious Is South Manchester's Grade A Office Famine?

Airport City Manchester 92K x 2 speculative office development September 2018
The two speculative blocks at plots E1 and E2, Airport City

Developers are stepping up supply in the south Manchester office development pipeline.

Third quarter take-up figures for Manchester’s southern business parks, due to be published later this month, will show a relatively thin performance over the summer as the supply of Grade A office space runs dry.

Agents say that new supply is not likely until 2020-21, despite evidence of strong demand.

The claims come as Airport City’s joint venture partners greenlight two 92K SF office buildings next to the new Hut Group campus.

If the planning application is approved, the developments will help to tackle the lack of supply of Grade A office accommodation within the city centre and south Manchester. The first of the 184K SF office buildings could be complete by early-to-mid 2021.

The planning application comes on the back of the recent landmark announcement by The Hut Group, one of the world’s largest online beauty and well-being businesses, which agreed a major deal to develop 1M SF of office space as well as studio space in the North West, including the new THQ business campus at the same site.

The developments are located next to the recently completed £15M ‘Enterprise Way’ and are the first commercial buildings to be brought forward on the site.

Airport City speculative office buildings 92K SF x 2 plus Hut Group campus September 2018
The two new speculative units, next to the proposed Hut Group campus at Airport City, Manchester

The announcement is not a moment too soon, according to agents in the south Manchester market.

“The third quarter was not particularly strong, maybe below average and would have been worse if the 100K SF Royal London/Alderley Park deal hadn’t landed over the summer," Lambert Smith Hampton Senior Surveyor Matthew Pickersgill said. "That’s not because of a lack of demand but because there is so little decent office stock.” 

“We know there’s demand — you only have to look at the speed Muse’s Stockport Exchange let, and their decision to go for a 60K SF second phase — but it looks like there’s nothing much else in the pipeline until 2021-22.”

South Manchester experienced a productive second quarter, with 216K SF transacting. This brought the H1 2018 total to 385K SF, a 16% increase on the same period in 2017. The Q3 figure, due to be published next week by Knight Frank and Canning O’Neill on behalf of the Manchester Office Agents Forum, will show take-up approaching 255K SF, including the Royal London deal.

“We anticipate a major surge in occupier demand at Airport City, following the recent landmark announcement with The Hut Group, which will help to deliver a critical mass of up to 10,000 people,” MAG Property Commercial Director Adam White said.

Airport City Manchester joint venture partners are Manchester Airports Group, Beijing Construction Engineering Group International and Greater Manchester Pension Fund.