The Squeeze on Space

A recent report by property consultant DeVono Cressa has revealed that office occupiers taking the best or better space on the market is leading to a dearth in choice for some occupiers. At a macro level the volume of available office space across central London continues to be high at 15.2 million sq ft. The figures are masking the difficulty in matching requirements with the available office buildings.

DeVono say that in the West End there is 3.5 million sq ft available, with just 22% of this is Grade A space. Victoria and Soho are particularly tight for available space. Even in the City where many new buildings are being built, Grade A space in this market is reducing, largely as a result of early-letting and pre-letting of new developments ahead of completion. Occupier searches are increasingly getting earlier in order to secure space, as well as more occupiers being open to fringe locations and taking more space for future expansion.

A noticeable trend in 2019 has been the rise in demand from the legal sector. A high number of active requirements have been launched recently. Whilst only 201,000 sq ft has been let so far this year, more moves are expected as legal firms scour London for space.

Metropolis is currently tracking nearly 50 law firms looking at options for alternative London office space.

The largest deal up to the end of Q2 2019 was 68,275 sq ft taken by Milbank at 100 Liverpool Street, London, EC2. Followed by Cadwalader, Wickerhsam & Taft pre-letting 21,700 sq ft in the soon to be completed 100 Bishopsgate tower. Some 62% of space leased by law firms this year is of Grade A quality.

DeVono Cressa say that in recent months 23 firms have begun a search or will soon start their search. If all firms decide to move, close to 1.9 million sq ft of office space could be let. Some of these requirements could take 2-3 years, as breaks or expiries are approached searches are showing signs of being started early to secure the right space.

The third quarter has seen US law firm Cooley pre-let 75,000 sq ft of tower space at 22 Bishopsgate, expanding from the 26,000 sq ft they currently occupy. Also in the City Kingsley Napley are doubling their space to 51,344 sq ft at the soon-to-be completed 20 Bonhill Street. Legal occupiers are becoming more footloose in their choice of location. More moving to the City and even the Southbank. Moving to newer buildings, newer locations and introducing new ways of working and/or new technologies is expected to facilitate a change. In an industry that is rife with competition for business and talent, all tools need to be deployed to stay ahead.

Metropolis is talking to nearly 100 law firms which have lease expiries or lease break options in the next three years.