New West End can inject life into office market

TOWN Centre Securities said it is in “meaningful discussions” with some of the larger professional practices in Leeds about the potential for new offices at its Whitehall Riverside site.

The former industrial area is seeing increasing activity after GDF Suez confirmed that it is taking 30,000 sq ft at No 1 Leeds, the new home of the Yorkshire Post.

Town Centre’s chief executive Edward Ziff said: “We are in talks with one or two professional services firms.

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“One or two of the legal firms in Leeds seem to be on the expansion trail. It’s not all bad news but business is tough. If we could find the right deals we would start development at Whitehall Riverside.”

Jeff Pearey, lead director – North East Region at Jones Lang LaSalle, letting agents for Wellington Place which stands opposite Whitehall Riverside, said latent demand for the area is being driven by a series of lease expiries.

“Occupiers are looking ahead which is good news for the city,” he said.

“It’s heartening that these discussions are taking place. It begins to provide a welcome return of activity to the sector.”

Accountants PwC and law firms Walker Morris, Squire Sanders, DAC Beachcroft and Shulmans have issued requirements for office space in Leeds as they approach the end of leases. The combined requirements amount to 240,000 sq ft and would have a total investment value exceeding £100m.

The area containing Whitehall Riverside, Wellington Place and No 1 Leeds has been dubbed the new West End of Leeds, to the West of the established professional quarter.

“So little space is being built,” said Mr Pearey. “We are gradually heading towards a situation where supply becomes tighter.”

No 1 Leeds is home to advertising agency Gratterpalm, which has taken 19,000 sq ft.

Alex Duckett, office agency specialist with property consultancy Knight Frank, which advised on the GDF Suez and Yorkshire Post Newspapers lettings, said: “These lettings firmly establish No 1 Leeds as a prime office building.

“Together with Bray Fox Smith and Jones Lang LaSalle we have worked hard to reposition No 1 Leeds in the market to both occupiers and agents and change the previous perception of the building from when it was called Latitude Red.”

There is now one floor, which covers 15,500 sq ft, at No 1 Leeds left to rent and the property agents said there is significant interest.

Jonathan Gale, of niche agency Bray Fox Smith, said: “We have worked closely with Knight Frank and Jones Lang LaSalle to provide an efficient and pro-active one-stop shop service for our clients IVG.

“These deals are a massive endorsement of Leeds as a top-quality business centre, as well as No 1 Leeds as a prime office development. We are now eager to finish our job and let the final floor.”

GDF Suez, one the largest utility providers in the world, is moving from its existing UK headquarters in the city, at 1 City Walk.

It has taken a 10-year lease on the 120,000 sq ft property. Prime rents in central Leeds are around £24 per sq ft.

Richard Thornton, of Jones Lang LaSalle, said: “Both the Yorkshire Post and GDF Suez chose this special building above all others in Leeds because it contains so many desirable, hi-spec and sustainable features in a bright working environment.

“The high-quality design and the accessible location are perfect for any occupier looking for highly efficient space.”

Sim Khatkar, of Bray Fox Smith, added: “It is also one of the most energy efficient buildings in Leeds with a higher than normal occupational density, so the occupier saves money from the outset.

“Its location, close to Leeds Station with immediate access to Yorkshire’s excellent motorway network which is surrounded by an abundance of cheap car parks is now realised by occupiers.”

Helen Oldham, managing director of Yorkshire Post Newspapers, said: “I am delighted that we have secured new high profile, quality city centre premises for our Leeds and Wakefield businesses.

“The move signifies a sizeable investment in our people and will provide an environment in which we can take our highly regarded media brands forward positive-ly.”

No 1 Leeds, formerly Latitude Red, on Whitehall Road, was sold by its developer BAM Properties to IVG in 2007.

Other occupiers, apart from Gratterpalm, include i2 Office.

The main sites for pre-let developments in Leeds are Wellington Place, Whitehall Riverside, Sovereign Square and City Square.

New offices will add to the pipeline of projects including the Trinity Leeds and Eastgate Quarters retail centres, the Leeds Arena and the Advanced Medical Park.

Asked how he sees the Leeds office market panning out over the next few years, Mr Ziff said: “There will be one or two successful deals and maybe one or two failures.

“It’s not much fun at the moment. We know we’re in for a marathon.”