Sheffield developers ‘biting the bullet’ on city office space

The new building being erected adjacent to Electric Works in Sheffield
The new building being erected adjacent to Electric Works in Sheffield
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The striking buildings that make up Sheffield’s Digital Campus are now the first things people see when arriving from the east by train, bus, tram or road.

The first two buildings, Electric Works and Ventana House, were finished at the height of the recession in 2010, with owners Scarborough Group taking a calculated gamble on the need for high quality office space.

Unusual spiral slide at Electric Works.

Unusual spiral slide at Electric Works.

That gamble paid off, with both buildings attracting plenty of interest and acting as incubators for small digital and creative firms, some of which have since expanded and moved into larger premises in the city.

Work is now well under way on the third building, Acero - with a fourth, Vidrio, soon to follow.

Rob Darrington is a partner in Commercial Property Partners, the firm charged with finding tenants for the new buildings. He puts the success of the Digital Campus so far down to a combination of factors.

“The brand, scheme and message has resonated throughout the commercial community,” he said.

Artist's impression of Phase Two of the Digital Campus in Sheffield

Artist's impression of Phase Two of the Digital Campus in Sheffield

“It’s got that critical mass with the first two buildings, and we have also got a mixture of younger companies - startups through to bigger corporates.

“It’s always been the intention to build that last two buildings out. In the past the market conditions and the recession meant that wasn’t appropriate. But in the last 12 months there has been a major shift in the demands of the market.

“A lot of the old, redundant stock has been converted to residential, and a lot of existing buildings have been taken up.

“Scarborough Group quite wisely felt the timing was right to bite the bullet and jump the gun on the development schedule.”

The Acero building is an almost identical copy of Ventana House, offering flexible space to suit the needs of each tenant. It’s total floor space is 80,326 sq ft.

A three-storey reception area is designed to impress visitors, and this continues with a high-quality finish to both the exterior and interior.

Acero will have 62 secure parking spaces - although not all the spaces at the first two buildings have yet been taken up.

The building’s design is intentionally striking, given its proximity to the eastern gateway to the city. People arriving by road and rail can’t help but notice the latest addition to Sheffield’s office space.

Mr Darrington said: “People driving in from other towns and cities come down off the Parkway and through that corridor. Now it’s screaming out commerce and good news.”

The Acero building should be finished by summer next year. In the meantime, Commercial Property Partners has to find businesses to fill it.

Mr Darrington said: “We are already speaking to three parties, and there has been a good level of interest. Two out of the three are not based in the city, so they will be new jobs.”

The Electric Works building is currently at upwards of 95 per cent occupancy, reflecting the popularity of the building. Toby Hyam, of building operator Creative Space Management, said more than 50 companies were based on site. 
This includes Wandisco, and previously included SkyBet, which moved out and built a £16 million development in the city.
“The building is doing exactly what it set out to do, which is to encourage already-growing digital companies to expand further,” said Mr Hyam, who praised the ‘amazing community’ created by staff from a diverse mix of companies, from software developers to marketing firms.
“If you are a small business and you want to grow you also need to collaborate and join a community,” he said.

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