Build the office space and the occupiers will come, that was the take away message for commercial developers at the Develop Croydon Conference.
Liz Hamson, Editor, Property Week opened the debate to discuss how the workplace has changed dramatically, explaining that her magazine had moved recently to better refurbished offices within Croydon due to changes in demand.
Neil Meredith, Head of Workspace, Schroders agreed: “There is a demand from occupiers wanting big floor space that is efficient, it needs to also give the occupier what it wants, now there are more demands.”
He also highlighted the current issue in Croydon is a lack of available space: “PD has taken a lot of the office space out of Croydon, there is little choice in Croydon at the moment to tempt more occupiers. I think spaces of 30,000 – 40,000 sq ft would be the sweet spot for demand but there is not much being built, we need a range of space.”
Richard Morris, CEO UK, IWG Plc believed there was a role for flexible office space in Croydon: “We have been here for 15 years and found there was an unfulfilled demand for flexible space, so we recently opened a new location near West Croydon.
“Occupiers now want a diversity and variety of space at a price point. More range of availability will attract a diversity of businesses, which is what Croydon needs.”
Adam Walker, Founder, CRATE highlighted that it wasn’t just the physical space that attracted occupiers and their employees now: “We talk a lot about cross sector. Occupiers are looking for the ability to work where they live, and they want to be able to go get their haircut, get their lunch and other basic amenities all in one place. There is a call for health and well-being in the workplace.”
Caroline Pontifex, Director, KKS noted that variety is important, whether refurbishing an old building to give occupiers spaces with character and something different or designing new builds which have the relevant infrastructure needed for the modern business. “Well-being is becoming a growing feature in the workplace too, but the most radical change has been the provision of cycle storage and showers as well as terraces and outside spaces. Croydon has some beautiful brutalist buildings that could be made more accessible,” she said.
When asked about Croydon’s main competition, Pontifex identified Stratford and Battersea with Meredith agreeing and making comparisons to Wembley: “Occupiers are definitely going to Stratford and Wembley as there is big space, but occupiers are both cost sensitive and now more sensitive to their staff demands. Croydon is the most cost-effective place by far,” he said.
Walker felt that Croydon was still strong: “Croydon’s time has come. If you look at the Purley Way with its enterprise and employment zones there is a fantastic opportunity area for developers like CRATE as there are diverse sectors covering amenities, service, B2B and B2C, which works for our model.”
Meredith agreed: “Croydon is entering an exciting phase. We are in discussions with Central London occupiers for Building 2. Occupiers are more positive about Croydon now, but there is risk at the moment and uncertainty in the market. We will start as soon as we can.”
Hamson wrapped up the panel session by stating: “If you build it, they will come.”