Time to move up in the world for developers at Terry's site

DEVELOPMENT and property company S Harrison has relocated its headquarters following a £1.2m refurbishment of the former Time Office at Terry's chocolate factory in York.

Its move to the newly-completed top floor suite comes three years after the company acquired the 1920s building, which originally served as the time-recording office for the city's former chocolate giant.

Harrison and architects Crease Strickland Parkins have rejuvenated the old two-storey building and added a third storey.

Later this month, property services company LHL is moving its headquarters from Doncaster to York and relocating its Clifton Moor operation to the building, newly renamed Stanley Harrison House.

Harrison, which employs 10 staff, is making the ground floor of the 10,000 sq ft building, which it occupied for three years, available leasehold as two separate self- contained offices.

Chairman Martyn Harrison said: "The move is a sign of confidence in the sector in the medium and longer term. The new office also gives us the capacity to expand in the future when the market picks up."

For Harrison, the move is the latest stage in the company's repositioning. In 2007 it moved from Malton, after being based in Ryedale since the company was formed in 1952.

It paid about 500,000 for the building, which Mr Harrison maintains was a fair price, even at the height of the market. "We didn't overpay for the building and we have spent a lot on it, adding considerable value," he said.

In the same year, Harrison sold its construction arm to Rok for 3.2m to focus on its development operation. Rok subsequently went into administration last month.

Mr Harrison said: "The decision to sell took us a long time to reach. The business began as a building company and it was like chopping off my right arm. There were all sorts of considerations and a lot of emotion attached to the family business but the timing worked for us.

"The construction business had grown to a point where it needed a different regime to take it to the next level. The rationale behind the decision was right, even if it didn't work out."

The company has been responsible for a number of major developments across the north of England including the 50m regeneration of Workington town centre, completed in 2006, and several landmark buildings in York itself. Current schemes include the 32m redevelopment of the original York railway station to provide new headquarters for City of York Council, and a 100m mixed use development in the historic city of Lichfield.

Mr Harrison said the hotel sector, student accommodation and healthcare were the main drivers of development, along with food retail.

The renaming of the Time Office to Stanley Harrison House, reflects the strong ties the company retains with its past; Stanley Harrison, who founded the company is the late father of Mr Harrison who took over the helm in 1977.

Sustainable elements of the building, which has received a BREEAM "excellent" rating for its environmental features, include air source heat recovery, photovoltaic panel technology and solar powered water heating, making the building largely energy self-sufficient.

Creating green travel plans for all those housed in the new accommodation is also part of the strategy.

Mr Harrison said: "For us as developers, it was important to make a statement about our green commitment.

"While the Government rightly focuses on ensuring that new buildings are sustainable, the real challenge is to ensure that existing listed buildings can meet the highest standards of performance to return them to sustainable commercial use."

Crease Strickland Parkins has worked with Harrison for around 20 years. This is the second headquarters the architectural practice has designed for them. The firm acted as architects on the Malton Station redevelopment, which also blended old and new architecture in an office complex from old railway buildings.

Looking ahead, Mr Harrison said 2011 would continue to be tough for the commercial property sector. "I don't see any reason why there will be any more activity next year," he said.

He added: "In the longer term, projects that have been in the sidings are showing signs of moving forward but I don't think that's anything to do with the economy.

"The situation is better now than it was two years ago. People know where they are at now. Before, it was turmoil and uncertainty. We have just been working away to get things moving. We have never taken our foot off the gas or sat back and waited for things to happen."

Building up over the years

The S Harrison Group was founded by the late Stanley Harrison in 1952. Originally a small local building company, the business expanded and opened a headquarters at Malton Station in 1998.

Under the leadership of Stanley's son, Martyn, the group grew its construction and development businesses in parallel until 2007, when it sold the construction arm to Rok.

The group now has its headquarters at The Chocolate Works in York.

In 2009, group pre-tax profits rose to 610,000 from 100,000 on an increased turnover of 10.04m, which almost doubled from 5.96m the previous year.

At the end of the year, shareholders funds stood at 18.38m with 5.5m held in cash.