Those who care about Middlesbrough’s future should stop being negative and get behind the “game-changing” development of Grade A office space around the town’s Centre Square, says Stephen Brown, senior partner at local firm Dodds Brown.
The Centre Square development will create 200,000 sq ft of premier office space in the centre of Middlesbrough, within short walking distance of public transport, parking, retail and hospitality.
Steelwork for the Middlesbrough Council-backed initiative is now in place for two of the office buildings, close to Middlesbrough Town Hall and arts centre mima.
The development has drawn criticism from some quarters but Brown, whose commercial property firm is helping to market the project, believes it’s crucial people remain positive about the scheme.
He said: “It’s easy to be negative but I think people who care about the town should get behind the aspiration for this project and what we’re looking to achieve.
“We have to be ambitious and aspirational as a town. It’s about being competitive.
“This project is a game-changer. It is essential and critical to the town.”
Brown explained: “In the past there have been companies in the market who would have considered Middlesbrough but it has always been about being able to offer them the sort of working environment ambitious, modern companies are looking for.
“That means Grade A office space but also facilities within the immediate area that offer a good work-life balance.
“We now have the product we need in that we can now offer the modern employer the sort of business accommodation they are looking for, so we’re now in the game with a really good project.
“The development is now on people’s radars and they are saying this now feels real and any development relies on a certain amount of belief and support.”
Brown, who revealed his company has been involved in the project from its outset some six years ago, says talks are underway with a variety of firms potentially interested in taking space on the Centre Square site.
“This is becoming very real and we’re now talking to potential occupiers,” he said. “We’re talking with a variety of businesses, who are interested in space of between 5,000 and 100,000 sq ft, so yes, we do have interest.
He added that those behind the project were looking to attract new businesses to the area across a “broad spectrum of sectors”, whether they be local, national or international concerns.
“We’re looking to attract businesses that are expanding – the type who are looking for agile working with truly high-quality working space,” he said.
Local businessman and developer Andy Preston has said of the project: “I really do hope that tenants are found and even more offices can be built. But making that happen is proving tough and I fear Middlesbrough Council has bitten off more than it can chew.
“When this project was first announced, a lot of people encouraged me to be negative about it but I put my neck on the line and gave a testimonial for a marketing document about the scale of the opportunity that exists in central Middlesbrough – and I stand by those positive comments.
“But I think the way to execute this scheme is to initially create a big building with lots of smaller offices boasting genuinely amazing facilities. I think filling that would be relatively simple and would advance the location as a vibrant business hub that would, in turn, attract bigger businesses.
“I honestly feel Centre Square is the best place within 30 miles to build an office but when you do something like this, trying to attract really big businesses, there’s always an increased risk of it being a white elephant, which is where my concern lies.”