Why Is That Grade A Office Block Still Empty?

Discussion in 'Central Ipswich' started by dan5, Jul 18, 2017.

  1. dan5

    dan5Founder MemberStaff Member

    Messages:
    2,358
    You know the one I am talking about, Connexions 159 in Princes Street. Why is it still empty?

    Tempting fate mentioning this when an inward tenant could be signed up at any moment - unlikely - but surely possible... and most definitely welcomed, there is certain things about it which strikes me as fatal mistakes to make when taking on relatively big projects such as this one. I am not in the property game so I don't know what I am talking about but this serves as a lesson to ensure I wouldn't make such mistakes if I ever were to be in the future.

    (The images used in this article are from Gordon Haw, Google Streetview and an official photo for Connexions 159. All images are smaller snippets)

    Brief History

    Originally a 1960s "modern" office block for Fisons (called Harvest House) built on the site of poor quality housing ("slums" which were demolished when the people were moved to the newer estates on the edges of the traditional town), the "floating effect" of an inset ground floor with V shape pillars supporting the floors above; it spent much of its recent history in a poor state before becoming derelict.

    fisons-gordonhaws2011-2.jpg

    As expected for a building of its age, it was full of asbestos. It wasn't particularly big and became ever so dated quickly.

    Why is it still empty?

    We could live off the theory of cursed land with that section of town having a very checkered past (Greyfriars anyone?) But we will explore other ideas...

    Premature agent hype

    Here is a photo from 2011...

    fisons-gordonhaws2011.jpg

    Here is Streetview from 2014...

    fisons-google2014.jpg
    I cannot be certain but I am confident this is the same sign as the one above (with the "Opening Winter 2011" vinyl removed).

    Prestige Office Development... in Ipswich? Please take note if they had been advertising this concept since 2010 (that I know of, maybe earlier) without an actual finished product, Ipswich Borough Council might struggle to get their tenants for the proposed "third office building". Of course, we are further from the recession (but confidence is knocked with the Brexit) and back at this point in time the building wasn't designated Enterprise Zone status, which it is now (still vacant) and the third office building also.

    The agents (all 4 of them!) thought the renovation would be complete in just over a year? Bullsh!t. They had no intention to move forward until tenants were all signed up... this wouldn't be all in the first week... they would need to plan the work, even with builders on board it would need to work around their existing workloads.

    Dishonest
    behaviour scared off potential tenants... if they were more realistic and honest it may have been a bit different. If they were lying about the opening date just to tempt businesses to sign-up, what is the chance the building will look very different from the photo and the internal specification?

    In 2017, we can probably fairly say that the internal specification is likely a higher standard than first planned but the building design completely different! Small businesses and entrepreneurs looking for a 1-6 person office would have probably signed up and with a big number of them doing so (if like a serviced office) it might have happened but large businesses and where the deal is leasing an entire floor or building... would have smelt a rat and likely have had past experience to know the timescales.

    Considering it can take 3 months to complete a lease in some cases, opening winter 2011? Never was going to happen. Creating a project deadline was silly. It is almost Winter 2017... 6 years later... anyone who is interested wants to knock down the price considerable to reflect that. Anyone investing so much money in the project isn't accepting low offers.

    Original Features/Lost Focus

    I like how - generally speaking - new developments keep aspects from the past so it isn't all forgotten. In this case it doesn't meet the criteria. The concept is instead of knocking down the existing derelict building at great cost and building something wonderful at even more cost from scratch... the new project is using the existing shell as a base, adding some new steel, renovating inside and creating a better modern external appearance solely to save cash which should equate in more money.. bigger ROI.

    fisons-upyours-2fingersalute.png

    This is where they fell apart. Their cheeky cost saving short-cut should be kept a secret. Not because it is illegal but because it is irrelevant! (Hopefully it wasn't something the council insisted on)

    If you are aiming at London and Cambridge businesses, they need to believe it is a brand new office building. Locals will know it is effectively the 1960s Harvest House with a mask on. They can learn this themselves by researching it and if they ask... you can be honest.

    Keeping all the old V supports is a bizarre move in anyone's book. Having it internally like the above picture is even more strange. If you look at the Connexion 159 topic with all the photos of white walls and ceilings, grey floors and wooden doors and skirting boards.... you have the carpet and wood flooring in the lobby area above... likely to have soft seating in the reception here... but all you can see is the concrete V pillars which is like 2-fingers up at you. Everyone is likely to ask at a viewing...

    No property developer or landowner is going to care about being energy efficient - they won't be paying the bills - they just want to increase the price per square foot or square metre that they can charge a tenant. Quite an own goal scored here. No one wants Grade A renovated space. If they were more realistic (especially of Ipswich) bringing the spec down, they would have had a tenant by now.

    Modern Day Costs

    The days of the fancy and expensive HQ are long gone. Despite the high price... many of London's offices aren't much better than the average space found in Ipswich. It is solely down to land value.

    One of the biggest (usually the biggest) costs for a business is the staff bill. (Well, non-retail anyhow) With all employers having to sign employees up to a workplace pension scheme and contribute the costs are rising.

    This is threatened further by NMW/living wage increases and uncertain climate (yes Brexit again).

    I am not sure why they didn't look at IP-City as a case study... they would have known the struggles they would face.

    Market it to anyone, persevere

    Having a property where you are looking for a specific client is ridiculous. Why London? Why Cambridge?

    Get some leads in the first instance. When you have a few you can choose who you prefer.

    I cannot see any London or Cambridge firm being interested in Ipswich post-Travel Ipswich...

    If you cannot get anyone to take the building, or a floor, then you need to consider splitting further...

    It isn't all bad....

    Not to fear, Suffolk County Council is guaranteed to acquire it in later years... just hold on it. Endeavour House and Landmark House was obtained in this way.
     

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