The recent landmark relocation of UK leading Information Communication Technology company CGI to Derby's Darley Abbey Mills has led Stephen Salloway, Managing Director of Salloway Property Consultants to consider if there's something stirring in the office space market. Is it the way of working or the where we work that comes first? What can contribute most to the success of a business?
The rise of technology, media, and telecommunications firms such as GCI is challenging the traditional demands of what a company requires from an office. However, I'm not talking about traditional 'new ways of working' such as open plan, hot desking or working from home policies - these are almost old money now - or at least accepted norms.
Theres a bigger piece afoot, the core need for these creative business to have creative spaces to work - or rather spaces that allow creative thought.
GCI's reasoning for why they have relocated to Darley Abbey Mills is and interesting example of such thought.
Yes the quality of the product, renovation work and specification had to be high. But in our conversations it was just as evident - if not more so - that the overall environment had to be right - it had to offer the scope to offer wellbeing to staff and in doing so breed creativity and productivity.
GCI were just as interested in the environment, the park, the river, the nearby amenities and opportunity to network with like minded businesses as they were the spec of the office. They see Darley Abbey Mills as a developing example of a 'Office Commune', the type of which challenges the traditional office development and - aside from purpose built 'Business Centres' - struggle to exist on office parks and city centre blocks.
According to companies such as GCI the type of office community found at Darley Abbey Mills offers will be an almost intangible creative boost, something uniquely different to fuel and promote the business. The attributes of the accommodation, its surroundings and the interaction with the other companies is inspiring a collaborative way of working - much greater than just practices such as hot desking.
So where does this leave Derby's office market? In the City Centre, period offices over retail are difficult to let at even £5/sq.ft. The old 1970's blocks like St Peter's House and Heritage Gate are likely to be transformed into residential. There's a handful of 1980's buildings at £10/sq.ft along with a few prominent period buildings at a similar rate. It appears the modern campus style developments of the last 20 years may also be too generic, too dry for the creative gills of Derby.
With this in mind its no wonder that the new 'business centre communities' in Derby – Friar Gate Studios, Riverside Chambers (ex Magistrates Court) and Derwent Business Centre seem to be going well - despite and often premium rent over other options. However, where Darley Abbey Mills differs is the ability to offer large office floor plates within niche and uniquely creative surroundings.
So is 'Office Commune' the way forward? CGI, along with others companies to be announced at Darley Abbey Mills, seem to be placing emphasis on the location of their business feeding the way they work rather than applying a way of working to a building. Whilst alternatives such as Pride Park will always be desirable, we believe we will see the schemes like Darley Abbey Mills become increasingly attractive to firms that would otherwise occupy city-centre or business park accommodation. I guess it boils down to the fact ultimately that the Mills are a fantastic place to work!