New offices help tackle shortage

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THE first phase of regeneration of a key business district in the centre of Leeds has been unveiled following a multi-million pound investment.

Evans Property Group invested £5m of its own funds to refurbish the Minerva building on East Parade with a new exterior and 30,568 sq ft of offices to boost the city’s low supply levels.

The project is the first phase of Evans’ £20m investment into the Bond Court area of Leeds which will include the refurbishment of neighbouring Capitol House office building, public realm works in Bond Court itself and the development of a nine-storey, 90 bed four-star Dakota hotel, which will transform the prominent former ‘stacker’ car park.

Alan Syers, portfolio director at Evans Property Group, said: “It is incredibly exciting to have completed the first phase of our Bond Court regeneration plans.

“Minerva has always boasted one of the best locations within the city centre and now its accommodation is as smart as its address.

“With much of the city’s stock being snapped up in the last couple of years, there is a real shortage of grade A offices in the heart of Leeds, with very little in the pipeline.

“Therefore, we have every confidence that Minerva will be a welcome addition to the market.”

The nine-month refurbishment programme at Minerva has resulted in a new façade, six available floors of new office accommodation and a boutique hotel-style reception area designed by interior designer Katharine Pooley, whose previous projects include the interiors for the Royal and VIP Lounges at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Mr Syers said: “The biggest challenge for developers is believing that there will be occupiers to take the space.

“You have to believe that occupiers will be there at rents you require to give an adequate return on your investment.”

He added: “Business confidence is starting to grow so we believe there will be the demand there for this building but some developers are still finding it hard because banks are still not willing to fund speculative development.”

Evans Property Group has appointed the Leeds offices of CBRE and JLL to market the available space at Minerva.

Jeff Pearey, at JLL, said; “The whole ethos behind the latest programme of works at Minerva has been to provide office space of the very highest standard resulting in a winning combination of grade A quality and prime location that so many of today’s occupiers are looking for.”

Alex Hailey, at CBRE, added: “Evans has timed this project ideally to capitalise on the city’s low supply levels and the increasing confidence from occupiers.

“We are already handling high levels of interest in the available space and look forward to welcoming new occupiers in due course.”

Planning for the Dakota hotel was granted to Evans in February this year and demolition of the car park is due to start in the forthcoming weeks.

Looking ahead, Mr Syers said: “I think things will continue to improve over the next 12 months and rental levels are moving forwards.

“We are seeing asking rentals increasing for space that has been on the market for some time.

“We are also starting to see investors take a firmer line with occupiers, with incentives reducing.”

He added: “Leeds is on the map again. It wasn’t on the map for a few years but Leeds City Council is supporting that. It all adds up to the Leeds story.”