Birmingham Review

Recent research from Colliers International saw office move activity in Q2 2019 in central Birmingham rise a substantial 65% on Q1 leasing levels, albeit driven by three large serviced office deals. The total number of agreed deals hit 320,595 sq ft in 30 deals according to the property consultant.

The quarter represents one of the strongest Q2 leasing levels in Birmingham since Q2 2015. The first half of 2019 overall saw 514,000 sq ft leased in 55 deals including Irwin Mitchell taking 46,750 sq ft at the Colmore Building and The Commonwealth Games who took 72,261 sq ft of Grade A space at One Brindleyplace. In Q2, the serviced office sector was responsible for 72% of total take-up. All three of the largest deals this quarter were attributed to WeWork, which leased a total of 229,042 sq ft in three separate deals: 92,670 sq ft over seven floors at 6 Brindleyplace, together with Louisa Ryland House (81,280 sq ft) and 55,092 sq ft at 55 Colmore Row simultaneously setting a new headline rent for Birmingham at £34 per sq ft. The 6 Brindleyplace deal was the largest in the city centre this year.

Without WeWork, the 2nd quarter would have seen take-up levels at their lowest (91,553 sq ft) since Q2 2012. Business services were the second-most active sector in Q2, accounting for 9% of total take-up.
The largest deal was for 8,097 sq ftat 52 Charlotte Street, let to Newhall Charlotte.

Total Grade A take-up totalled 262,587 sq ft, which was heavily skewed by the WeWork deals. Grade A take-up increased by 70% from Q1. Four out of 19 Grade A deals transacted this half was for space greater than 50,000 sq ft. The average Grade A deal size in H1 2019 was 21,935 sq ft.

Metropolis is talking to nearly 60 Birmingham occupiers of 5,000 sq ft or more approaching lease expiries in the next two years.

Agents say that the mover size bracket of 5,000-15,000 sq ft is unlikely to be affected by WeWork or the other serviced office providers, so agents expect to see continued healthy levels of take-up of this size. The 2,000-5,000 sq ft bracket will be watched with particular interest.

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Birmingham Offices Looking Ahead

Birmingham office market during 2018 saw 754,000 sq ft of office space transacted in 113 letting deals. This was a little down on the 1m sq ft of take-up in 2017 which included a 240,000 sq ft Government letting at Arena Central, but up on the 693,000 sq ft of office moves agreed in 2016.

Major lettings during 2018 included: WSP taking 46,000 sq ft at The Mailbox, BE Group taking 38,000 sq ft at Somerset House, Zurich Insurance taking 23,000 sq ft at Colmore Square and General Dental Council agreeing to move to 22,000 sq ft at 1 Colmore Square.

Metropolis ran 80 leads on Birmingham office moves during 2018, with 25 searches for office space ongoing.

A recent report by Knight Frank highlights notable expansions such as Hogan Lovells have quadrupling the size of its Birmingham office, taking 23,000 sq ft at The Colmore Building. The law firm is taking advantage of the cost benefits such as lower wages and property costs in the city.

Over the last 18 months Birmingham has witnessed an upsurge in flexible office provision. More than 20% of Birmingham transactions (approx 313,000 sq. ft.) have been divided between various flexible models such as co-working, traditional managed centres, and operators who are providing a fixed term, fully serviced office, to identified occupiers. Instant Offices (3 buildings), Spaces (2 buildings) and MSO have been notably active, acquiring a number of locations.

Knight Frank say take-up of Grade A accommodation repeatedly accounts for over 50% of total activity within central Birmingham. High quality space deals are driven in part by the occupiers’ seeking to raise the profile of their business and enhance their staff recruitment potential. The wellbeing of staff and the workplace is shaping occupier decision-making. Access green walls, health and leisure facilities and high quality on-site catering is becoming as important.

Looking ahead, Knight Frank confirm a number of potential lettings are currently in advance talks at city centre office buildings including The Lewis Building, One Colmore Square, The Colmore Building and Baskerville House as well as some pre-let discussions. Metropolis lists a number of the occupiers interested in these schemes.

At developments under construction, including 103 Colmore Row, 3 Snowhill and 2 Chamberlain Square at Paradise, there is a significant level of advanced pre-let discussions with occupiers

Birmingham Breaks 1m sq ft

Colliers has just published its latest report on the Birmingham office market.

It reveals that Central Birmingham office take-up in Q4 2017 totalled 354,530 sq ft in 49 deals, taking the annual total past 1 million sq ft for the first time. The total was boosted by the 239,000 sq ft pre-let by the UK Government (GPU) at 3 Arena Central in Q3. The year-end take-up totalled 1,005,072 sq ft in 130 separate deals. Further GPU requirements are also in the pipeline for the next five years as departments including Ministry of Justice and DWP also seek to consolidate and upgrade their regional offices in Birmingham.

Amongst the largest Q4 lettings, IWG (formerly Regus) secured 76,000 sq ft of offices at Crossway on Great Charles Street, as well as 33,300 sq ft of the newly refurbished Lewis Building. Co-working operator iHub signed for 18,000 sq ft at Colmore Gate and MSO Workspace took 9,850 sq ft at 11 Brindleyplace. Serviced office providers are catering for a growing demand from banking, outsourcing and infrastructure clients who seek a flexible occupational solution as a result of investment by HSBC and HS2.  In addition, PwC took an additional pre-let of 58,631 sq ft at Two Chamberlain Square to add to the 90,000 sq ft it took at the scheme in 2016. Metropolis also reported that Spark44 took  14,176 sq ft at Norfolk House and The Princes’s Trust, took 1,773 sq m (18,980 sq ft) of offices at the Beorma Quarter. Recently, engineering consultancy firm WSP signed for 47,000 sq ft of refurbished space at Mailbox for its West Midlands regional headquarters.

On the supply side, Three Snowhill (420,000 sq ft) and 1&2 Chamberlain Square (232,000 sq ft) are due for completion by late 2019. The 42-acre Birmingham Smithfield is due to be redeveloped into over 3 million sq ft of commercial space, and in Edgbaston, there is consent for a £300 million regeneration of a 10.7-acre plot along Hagley Road. by Calthorpe Estates and U+I, known as New Garden Square, which could potentially deliver more than 600,000 sq ft of office space.

Metropolis is monitoring 50 companies searching for offices in the Birmingham area and nearly 60 companies approaching lease decisions over the next two years.

Birmingham Upswing

A recent report by specialist Birmingham consultant KWB, reveals that the Birmingham city centre office market recovered in the first quarter of 2017 back to normal Q1 levels.

Office space transactions in the first quarter of 2017 totalling 139,000 sq ft – more than 30,000 sq ft over total transactions in each of the third and final quarters of 2016.  The largest deal of the quarter was by Arcadis’ signing for 22,953 sq ft at Cornerblock which is currently being refurbished, followed by iHub’s 18,378 sq ft new base in Colmore Gate. Recruitment specialist SThree Group was also the first tenant to sign 10,035 sq ft at the newly refurbished 10 Temple Street, on the 4th and 5th floors on a 10-year lease.

KWB say that the first quarter of 2017 was very much on a par with that of 2015. Looking ahead, KWB say that the rest of 2017 looks set fair, with the highest level of office development underway in Birmingham city centre for 15 years (1.4 million sq ft), a good supply of top quality Grade ‘A’ space is coming on stream and should trigger some significant office lettings in the coming months. Schemes include 55 Colmore Row
(160,000 sq ft), Corner Block (112,000 sq ft) and the Lewis Building (110,000 sq ft). The much reported HMRC requirement, which has shortlisted Three Snowhill, Arena Central and Post & Mail building, will see a letting of 200,000-300,000 sq ft and KWB also expect the HS2 halo effect to strengthen the Birmingham city centre office market.

Metropolis is currently tracking over 30 medium and large office requirements in Birmingham. Looking ahead, HS2 will have a major pull in 2017. The city has already seen Laing O’Rourke take 11,000 sq ft at 1 Victoria Square in 2016 and engineering firms and consultants are likely  to be a big sector going for office moves this year. In addition, there are nearly 40 tenants which are approaching decisions on lease or office consolidation plans over the next eighteen months.