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Connexions 159: The Importance Of Kerb Appeal For Office Blocks

Discussion in 'Town Centre (Central Ipswich)' started by dan5, Aug 8, 2017.

  1. dan5

    dan5ModeratorStaff Member

    Never underestimate kerb appeal for office blocks. Or presentation... or functional design either... let's explore.

    We have already gone to great lengths talking about this Connexions 159 office block in Princes Street Ipswich. One aspect we haven't looked at is functional design and overall appearance. So far we had mostly focused on the inability to make Princes Street office corridor succeed.

    Before work commenced

    Always good footage and interesting.



    But does this ever help you sell a building when you take the shell of a 1960s asbestos office block and refurbish it to a high Grade A specification?

    connexions159-transformation.png
    I am not so sure. Everyone knows it is a refurbished office block - not a secret - and the amount spent on it. Around £9 million apparently (yet the Birketts building is estimated around £12m from scratch). On hindsight it might have been better to start again.

    Connexions 159 Flaws

    Taking photos without caring if the property is at its best.

    connexions159-birds.png
    The first thing you would want to do if selling a property is making it as presentable as possible. Here in this photo you can clearly see some large bird crap which no one has bothered to clean off before taking the photo (or photoshopping it out).

    It isn't structural and it isn't a big deal but why spend money on Grade A space if they won't even do the basic. There are also marks on the cladding but that is pedantic. The bird mess is clearly viewable. This photo has been online for around a year. The property isn't selling... maybe I have a point?

    Steps (and bolt on lift), poles...

    connexions159-entrance.png
    This should be criminal in the 21st century. Why design a property to require steps? (This is partly why it may have been more sensible to start over again, adapting an existing building you have to work around the flaws) Not talking about disability access as this has been thought of with an aftermarket lift added. I am able-bodied and I think if I worked there and needed to climb those stairs a couple of times a day it would be a hassle. The handrails look ugly and they are added as they are necessary to safely climb the steps. Those with different feet sizes may have varied results!

    1 in 25 people going up them are going to trip on them. They should have created a slope where the grass is (I am assuming this isn't public highway, it may be, but this could still be configured to make this approach possible) and have the reception area more central along the road. Health & Safety trip, slip or fall hazard especially in the wet... bad mark...

    A crossing near the steps isn't ideal but it services the building to a pathway leading to the station or to the nearest bus stop. The wooden cycle lane post although on the public highway is in the way. The destination wayfinder pole is in the way, your staff, clients and customers would be competing pavement space with the public congested around traffic light poles too... I would have got the council to move it. I would suggest a little further over to the right where the wooden post currently is and to include the cycle path sign on the wayfinder pole and get rid of the wooden post.

    Perimeter Security... paramount (completely overlooked)
    connexions159-west.png connexions159-east.png
    In the first photo to the right you can see a drop-kerb that isn't utilised. Why not create a second gate? (emergency access)

    To the left (next to one man and his dog) you have a row of poles... down the alleyway (clearer to see from other angle on the second photo) You need to close the site off from the public highway. If you look on the second photo the Suffolk Life building has a perimeter wall, railings and CCTV (which would be done by the tenant). Also on the second photo is more rows of poles... (and a gate which seems pointless, get to that later)

    There is nothing saying there is a crime problem but you need to ensure no one is damaging the cars of your employees (or stealing them even) and also it is just going to be too easy to walk on site which could be a fire hazard. Someone could easily set fire to the bins and stick it underneath the building which might catch the cladding alight. It is just too risky, may never happen... close to the football ground... a major concern.

    Back to the middle red circle in the first photo... I don't get why they didn't just build another floor... a ground floor... losing space... gain a few parking spaces no great deal. I would even suggest equalling the building up a bit so that wing had 4 storeys instead of the two.

    Decking...
    connexions159-roofdecking.png
    If you are lucky you could see part of the game (probably the Ipswich town goal, with the keeper in front, and the ball in the net...)

    Wooden decking, really fancy... what is that, a steel beam? Why would you not have extended the decking an extra 30-40cms to hide that up? penny pinching hinders an ROI. If it is a Grade A, it is Grade A...

    Balconies and levels etc.
    connexions159-south.png
    We have a random green box, buildings telecoms perhaps. The balconies are a really nice idea... on a nice day you can go outside the office, on to the balcony and breathe in the pollution from the road below... I don't think it really suits the location... extending the office out a bit further would have been more sensible. The ground floor supports for the balconies look awful and it is wasted space... if having balconies... have the ground floor out to the edge... gain a bit more office space and doesn't look ugly.

    On the right... and it could be the Streetview camera, what looks to be an very uneven surface (I am sure it is exaggerated) for the disabled parking. I would hate to see the wheelchair roll away... The terrain will be more extreme than it looks here... but around the corner (on the right) is a dropped kerb for pedestrians to cross the road... the perimeter poles have stopped... what is the point of the gate? You could drive your car in there! If you have a 4x4 you are laughing.

    Is that small gap supposed to be the entrance for cyclists?

    Internal woes
    connexions159-V.png
    These old upside-down V shapes look poor.

    connexions159-internalsupports.png
    Anyone notice a major problem theme across this building?

    Supports! These hold the roof up and more likely than not send through utilities. This is probably the most extreme example... large (i.e. wide/chunky) spread out supports are fine you can utilise the space. Here, we have six supports, different sizes and different offset positions.

    How can you use this space? 99 out of 100 people will be forced to add a partition (glass, stud wall etc)

    Lessons to be learned
    1. Ipswich is a high risk location for any project (blame local government and their decisions)
    2. An Enterprise Zone which gives business rate relief doesn't make you any more likelier to get a tenant for your office block
    3. An Enterprise Zone won't necessary get you more money (i.e. same budget, more go to the landlord instead of the council as rates)
    4. Sometimes it is worthwhile demolishing a building and starting from scratch with a blank canvas (Birketts is only due to cost £3m more to build than the problems they had developing around an host building)
    5. If you advertise a refurbishment scheme for five years and have no real interested parties probably best not to go ahead with the development
    6. If you go for a big budget Grade A specification, you cannot compromise on anything - penny pinching doesn't work
    7. Local research is key. There isn't many bespoke new build office blocks in Ipswich. Offices here are either serviced offices, small leased offices or contained leased offices... the latter operated by a serviced office provider that acts as a showroom and agent for them. Big risk building an office block expecting to lease floors or sell the building... the town is full of empty office blocks of that model.
    8. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential buyer or tenant. What are they after? What would you expect if you were buying office space from a third party?
    9. Chances of securing a tenant or a sale at the high price you want is more likely sooner rather than later. More effort should have been undertaken to get a tenant and anyone who pass due diligence should be considered not just London or Cambridge criteria.
    10. The local authority and politicians will let you down - they won't boost confidence - they just want to get into photos - that isn't the same as hard cash - a good contact in the industry is much better than a politician everyone has heard of
     
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