Leeds Offices Step Up

Recent research by Avison Young showed a strong start to 2019 in Leeds city centre with 222,000 sq ft take-up in 39 deals, 56% above the 10 year average. TMT occupiers accounted for the lion’s share of activity, and with Channel 4’s announcement that it intends to acquire 25,000 sq ft at Rushbond’s Majestic this commitment is likely to act as a further stimulus for the continued growth of this sector in the Leeds region. Banking and finance combined with professional services also accounted for a third of transactions.

Take up was led by the 71,000 sq ft letting at M&G’s Central Square to Link Asset Services, a share registry provider. There were also five transactions above 10,000 sq ft, the largest of which was 20,700 sq ft to WYG plc at 3 Sovereign Square as well as Unite Union (12,800 sq ft) and Opera North (11,000 sq ft). There were two further 5,000 sq ft deals to engineering companies BAM Nuttall and Buro Happold. The Government Hub announced its move in 2017 and will open in the next 12 months. Metropolis has published details of 20 future relocations and 36 companies considering a move in recent months.

Out-of-town mover activity was more subdued but there was also a greater than average level of take-up for deals below 5,000 sq ft across both markets.

Channel 4’s deal to lease three floors of the 66,000 sq ft Majestic, the former cinema located opposite the train station will account for one office scheme. Along with 34 Boar Lane (46,000 sq ft) this is currently undergoing a major refurbishment in the city centre. The speculative 4 Wellington Place (155,000 sq ft) is also under construction in the city centre and due for completion by the end of 2020. The only new development completed recently was the newly refurbished 33 Wellington Street of which 15,000 sq ft is still available.

Metropolis is tracking around 40 companies looking for office space in the Leeds area.

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City of London Update

A recent research update on the City of London office market by property consultant Savills, revealed that office take-up on the 12-month rolling total had reached 6.9m sq ft, the lowest it has been
since July 2017.

Savills say that demand for space in the fringes of the City has been reduced this year, with most large deals concluded in the core area. The largest deal to be signed in the last two months saw the financial group Brewin Dolphin acquire the whole of 25 Cannon Street, EC4 (114, 000 sq ft) with the relocation happening in July 2022. In addition, competitor Smith & Williamson signed for 86,975 sq ft at Gresham St Pauls, 40 Gresham Street, EC2 relocating from their current offices when the scheme completes in Q3 2020. Demand continues to be concentrate on the new schemes with a two tier market evident. For example 100 Liverpool Street has seen deals of 63,000 sq ft to Millbank and 40,000 sq ft to Peel Hunt, achieving higher than average rents for the area. During Q1, construction started on 6-8 Bishopsgate (710,000 sq ft), Ropemaker Place (480,000 sq ft) and 1 Portsoken Street (190,000 sq ft).

The Insurance and Financial services sectors are the mainstay of demand in the City, currently with 27% of the share of take-up, followed by the Serviced Office Provider sector with 18% share, and the Professional services sector in third with 11%.  Tech & Media sector is lagging in 2019. Tech & Media occupiers are thought to be choosing to move into serviced offices, which continue to expand. The Serviced Office
sector has taken 363,000 sq ft of offices in the City, so far this year, up on this point last year by 78% and up on the 10-year average. An example is WeWork acquiring 50,000 sq ft at 2 Minster Court, EC3. The average deal size for the quarter was just 13,621 sq ft, its lowest since 2012. This was due to a lack of larger transactions.

During the first 6 months of 2019 Metropolis ran leads on 180 occupiers looking for alternative office space in the City of London.

Bristol Office Market Picks Up

Recent research by JLL and CBRE reveals that the Bristol city centre market had a slow start to 2019 with some 58,140 sq ft of city centre office deals representing the lowest level since Q1 2009. The only deal over
5,000 sq ft between January and March, was Forrest Brown taking 23,207 sq ft of space at Templeback in the city centre.

However, recent research by Metropolis shows the pace picking up in Q2.  Turner & Townsend signed for 7,000 sq ft at Desklodge House, Historic England took 6,000 sq ft at Finzels Reach, Efinor took 5,000 sq ft at Whitefriars, Unite Integrated Solutions is taking 27,000 sq ft at South Quay Temple Back and Brunel Studios taking 4,000 sq ft at Petherton Road. Ashfords Solicitors, the Bristol-based law firm, is understood to be under offer to take 1,580 sq m (17,000 sq ft) of new offices at the under construction ‘The Assembly’ office building in Temple Quarter.

Out of town, there have been large lettings of 40,000 sq ft to St James Place Wealth Management at 2610 Aztec West,13,000 sq ft to Elbit Systems UK at 600 Aztec West and 13,000 sq ft to Integral at Waterside Drive have boosted the totals.

JLL say the outlook for the remainder of the year is more positive with a quarterly increase in overall registered demand from a broad range of business sectors, including flexible workspace operators.  The overall vacancy rate remained stable during Q1 at 4.3%. Bristol continues to have the lowest New Grade A vacancy rate of the large provincial city office markets at just 0.1%.

The development pipeline is responding to this with AXA’s Building A, Assembly (200,000 sq ft) and RLAM’s 90,000 sq ft The Distillery both under construction on a speculative basis. Bristol currently has a number of schemes in the pipeline totalling up to 850,000 sq ft. Some of these schemes could be delivered as soon as 2021. Headline prime rents remain stable at £35.00 psf.

Metropolis Research is following up on 200 lease expiries in Bristol due in the next two years.

Thames Valley Update

Recent reports from CBRE and LSH revealed that office deals (take-up) across the Thames Valley region totalled 393,653 sq ft during Q1 2019. Metropolis Research listed 58 ‘space found’ leads during that time as part of 62 recorded deals of 4,000 sq ft and over in the market area.

CBRE say that deal volumes represented a solid start to the year, which is marginally up on the same period in 2018 and in line with the five year quarterly average. The largest deal took place at Ascent 3, Farnborough Aerospace Centre where 45,788 sq ft was let by Discover Financial Services. Other large relocations announced included Gartner taking over 40,000 sq ft at Lovett Road, Staines; Arena taking 37,000 sq ft at Quantum House, Basingstoke; Axa taking 17,000 sq ft in Weybridge and HP taking 30,000 sq ft at Thames Valley Park

CBRE say there is currently 351,014 sq ft of office space under offer (deals about to be signed) across the Thames Valley for space over 10,000 sq ft, the majority of demand in the sub 20,000 sq ft size band. Total office availability at the end of Q1 2019 was 5.7 million sq ft. Grade A supply at the end of Q1 stood at 2.3 million sq ft which is 34% below the five-year average. CBRE have identified four new developments due to
complete in 2019 and say there is already competition for the best existing stock.

In the northern half of the region there were five transactions over 10,000 sq ft in Q1. The largest deal to complete was at The Maylands Building in Hemel Hempstead, where serviced office provider Spaces acquired nearly 25,000 sq ft. Other deals completed in Milton Keynes, including K2, Timbold Drive and The Pinnacle, which both let 19,000 sq ft respectively.

Take-up in the M25 South region in Q1 2019 totalled only 28,030 sq ft. There were two transactions over 10,000 sq ft. Cabot Financial took almost 11,000 sq ft at 35 Kings Hill Avenue, West Malling, while Zoetis Pharmaceuticals acquired just over 17,000 sq ft at Birchwood Building, The Office Park, Leatherhead.

Lambert Smith Hampton identify the Technology, Media and Communications (TMT) sector providing a major source of demand across the South East region. Since the beginning of 2018, it has accounted for almost a third of take-up, well above the next most active sources: Pharmaceuticals, Medical and Healthcare (12%) and Professional Services (10%). Whilst TMT remains the cornerstone of demand in the South East, the rapid growth in activity among flexible office providers has been the most striking trend in the market and indicative of clear structural shifts in occupier demand and a race for market share among operators. Rising from a nearly zero just three years ago, take-up from serviced office providers amounted to over 500,000 sq ft over the past 12 months.

Lease events were the primary trigger of recent office relocations in the Thames Valley, accounting for 44% of transactions. This was closely followed by expansions, with 39%. Workspace improvement also
played a significant role, being the key driver in a significant proportion of deals. These included several deals in which companies upgraded to newflagship offices. For example, KPMG recently agreed a 45,478 sq ft deal that will see it relocate its Reading office to the newly-built 2 Forbury Place in Reading.

Inward investment deals – those involving occupiers locating to new markets in which they were not previously present – represented 20% of recent transactions over 5,000 sq ft. Reading was by far the biggest attractor of inward investment, which accounted for 334,559 sq ft of occupier transactions last year. This was more than half of the town’s total take-up and it represented 42% of inward investment across the whole of the SouthEast. The largest deal in Reading saw Virgin Media take 120,000 sq ft for a new UKheadquarters at Green Park. Other major entrants to the Reading market included Sanofi, Ericsson and Fora.

Central London Office Market May 2019

Central London office lettings in May 2019 reached 1.3 million sq ft, from 40 mid-large size office transactions (5,000 sq ft+) during the month. The May 2019 deals volume figure is well above the current monthly London average of 1m sq ft.

May was characterised by 14 office deals over 20,000 sq ft, which were led by EBRD’s 365,000 pre-let at 1-5 Bank Street, E14; along with the letting of the refurbished 25 Cannon Street to Brewin Dolphin; WeWork at Film House, Soho, W1; Parliamentary Estates taking space at 64 Victoria Street, SW1, plus Quilter at Senator House in EC4 .

Financial Services topped the table of lettings by sector, compiled by Metropolis, underpinned by the EBRD pre-let and Brewin Dolphin’s new City of London HQ. This was followed by business services led by WeWork and Signature (Regus) deals. Public services, led by Parliamentary Estates and professional services with Cadwalader and Comply were also well represented.

Office deals ‘under offer’ in central London stood at 3m sq ft, and pending deal volumes are healthy in nearly all sub-markets, with a number of deals in solicitor’s hands.

By area, the City accounted for 34% of the office floorspace let in May 2019 at 437,000 sq ft. The West End saw 350,000 sq ft of take-up. Docklands 365,000 sq ft, Midtown contributed 109,000 sq ft of lettings and Southbank 21,000 sq ft. Current London office demand is calculated to be around 3.7m sq ft in the City and 3m sq ft in the West End.

The volume of grade A (newly built or refurbished office space) let during the month, reached a healthy 960,000 sq ft sq ft (74% of the monthly total), as transactions for new space maintained the recent strong showing. Availability is dominated by secondhand space in all London markets.

Metropolis research is currently monitoring 625 ‘live’ London office requirements, including a large volume of requirements from the banking and finance sectors, with pending deals for space of up to 1.5m sq ft due to sign in the next few months.

London Office Development

The Deloitte Crane Survey Summer 2019 has just been published with data contributed by Metropolis and Cityoffices. In this blog we look at the main survey findings and some of the other additional trends that were not highlighted in the final report.

Last year the survey reported that after a small dip in Q3 2018. However in Q1 2019 the volume of London office space under construction has risen 12% to 13.2m sq ft. There were 37 new schemes started in the last six months. Major new starts included the 611,000 sq ft Facebook HQ at Kings Cross and the 245,000 sq ft 1 Finsbury Avenue, EC2.

Deloitte highlight a trend towards refurbishment construction projects in the City of London, whereas Kings Cross is leading the new-build starts. The City will see completions in 2019 to towers at 22 and 100 Bishopsgate, with more office towers planned.

Some 6m sq ft of office space is planned for completion in central London in 2019, matching the 2018 figure. Occupiers are jostling for the new space with 55% of the space due for completion this year already pre-let. Finanancial services, technology and serviced office occupiers are particularly active. The fringe areas of Southbank including Battersea, Kings Cross and Paddington are attracting more pre-lets than the West End.

Deloitte conclude that new Grade A office space availability is falling with 30m sq ft currently in the pipeline, which represents a 23% fall in the last two years. However, London’s office pipeline is always waxing and waning. The recent short term trend and looking back historically cannot be relied upon in the longer term. Indeed, the number of schemes at demolition or site preparation stage, such as the Leadenhall  Triangle, Ropemaker and 6-8 Bishopsgate, continues to be healthy. Research showed that 6.5m sq ft of central London offices are poised to start construction in the latter half of 2019, giving a healthy pipeline going forward.

Looking at planning applications over the last year in central London, in numbers terms, there is a trend towards refurbishment applications over new-builds. New applications for schemes in the pipeline such as 1 Undershaft could skew this trend back towards new builds again. Demand from London office tenants continues to underpin developer plans for the next wave of building.

Edinburgh Office Market Update

Metropolis ran nearly 50 business leads on Edinburgh occupiers relocating in the early months of 2019. There are nearly 200 office occupiers approaching lease events in the city in the next two years. Recent expansions are showing a rise in the number of financial services and technology companies taking space.

In Q1 2019, total office letting in Edinburgh reached 185,000 sq ft, of which nearly 60,000 sq ft was Grade A new office space. Figures from Savills show that 90% of Grade A deals came from Tech industries. The largest deals included Amazon signing for 30,000 sq ft at Exchange Crescent and Epic Games taking 10,000 sq ft at Quartermile 2. Over the past five years, Edinburgh has seen employment growth of 7% in the professional scientific and tech industries and is forecast to see a further 11% over the next five years.

Avison Young spotlight the wider Edinburgh office market, which also saw large deals. Two of the largest deals freehold purchases out-of-town with 49,000 sq ft to the Church of Scientology at Westfield House and 12,000 sq ft to Sime Hospitality at South Gyle Business Park. There were other mid-sized deals to CGI and Upward Mobility. Lloyds Bank is expanding into a 75,000 sq ft technology hub at its Scottish Widows’ headquarters.

In the centre of Edinburgh there has been a high concentration of sub 5,000 sq ft deals, with tech firms have particularly active in this size bracket, accounting for 33% of all take-up.

Analysts expect a boost in take-up for the business services sector over summer 2019, with a number of buildings under offer to providers of co-working serviced office space.

Avison Young reveal that overall availability in the city centre amounts to 448,000 sq ft, which is less than a year’s supply based on the recent past demand. Although future supply was boosted when M&G Real Estate has instructed Qmile Group to build its mixed-use Haymarket scheme, which includes 350,000 sq ft of office space. There is currently around 55,000 sq ft remaining at Capital Square ahead of completion in May 2020, 2 Semple Street has 35,000 sq ft available, and 30,000 sq ft of sub-let space is on offer at 20 West Register Street.

Looking ahead, with a vacancy level of 3%, more pre-letting looks likely. Metropolis is tracking around 30 confirmed and potential medium/large office searches in Edinburgh.