By Ian Leather
Bray Fox Smith
UNTIL the recent commencement of new office development on the next phase of the Waterside Way scheme at Bedford Road, Northampton had not witnessed any new build offices (save for those delivered by the public sector) for over 10 years.
The Avon HQ building was the last building of significance to be delivered and despite plenty of opportunities to build on that success, the opportunities have passed Northampton by.
The growing shift to make office development a focal driver for improved urban space reflects modern expectations of how we live, work and spend our free time. The strict divisions between work and leisure are blurring. We work flexibly and, on the move, and there are dominant, influential social trends and preferences, notably collaboration, sharing and wellbeing.
The fortress-style monolithic corporate blocks of previous decades along with soulless business parks, invariably hemmed in and unconnected to their immediate environment, are out of step with present-day ideals of working lifestyles.
How we want to work, where we want to work, and business-cost pressures are all strongly influencing UK employers' location decisions and office design. The most important are:
* Attracting and retaining talent - great offices in a stunning setting, with quality retail and leisure outlets, and easy access by foot, bicycle or public transport often tips the deal and tempts the best employees.
* Office spaces and business parks evolving as open, creative collaboration hubs, rather than conventional developments with limited spaces for networking.
* Pressures to use leased space more effectively and efficiently, with hot-desking, flexible working and more freelance staff increasing office density, plus saving on space by taking advantage of nearby cafes or hotels for meetings.
* Growing importance placed on staff health, wellbeing and work-life balance.
* Satisfying the varied needs of an increasingly diverse workforce with a broad age span within one office setting - not just one office building.
* Office space and surroundings that help project a company's brand personality and lifestyle values.
These trends are compelling developers to consider not only what comprises a good offer in internal office space and design, but also the quality and assets of the surrounding urban realm and overall offer which elevates a city centre office development, or a business park scheme to become a more attractive proposition.
Simply delivering new office buildings and schemes, or recycling and regenerating older stock that don't address the needs of an evolving workforce and play a significant role in the placemaking agenda would be a recipe for disaster.
Northampton as a focal point for the county needs to step up and start delivering better quality stock that can attract new inward investment and job creation and provide the quality of workspace to support occupiers to retain and attract new talent.
In comparison to peer markets across the region Northampton is lagging behind. It is important that we witness growth in the market which facilitates new development and investment to improve dated stock. Otherwise, we continue to stagnate whilst all around us flourish.
To discuss how you can improve your workspace contact Ian Leather at Bray Fox Smith by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org