The company behind Middlesbrough’s flagship Centre Square development has unveiled exciting plans for the next phase of the multi-million pound scheme.
Ashall Projects has submitted a planning application for a four storey 40,000 sq ft Grade A office building on the corner of Melrose Street and Grange Road, where Melrose House used to be.
The news comes hot on the heels of announcements confirming major lettings for the first part of the development, and – even at this early stage – there is already interest in the new building from a blue-chip multinational company which is keen to take much of the space.
The director of Ashall Projects, Mark Ashall, said his company was so confident in the success of the Centre Square project that it acquired the new site a year before any lettings were confirmed and took the decision to demolish Melrose House during 2020’s first lockdown.
He said the development is now starting to fulfil its potential despite the impact, first of the uncertainty for businesses over Brexit, and now the pandemic.
Middlesbrough Council also changed its mind about a planned move into its new neighbour, One Centre Square.
“But that gave us the opportunity to make more Grade A space available,” said Mr Ashall.
“The decision by the first occupiers – GB Bank, Causeway, XPS and Firstsource – who are all quality companies working in a variety of sectors – to commit to the development means that private occupiers have taken two-and-a-half times the amount of space envisioned for them in the first phase.
“It’s also worth noting that the agreement with Firstsource marks the largest office letting in Middlesbrough for 25 years and the decision of all four to move to Centre Square means there will be hundreds of new jobs and hundreds more will be safeguarded.”
During the public consultation over the project’s first phase, questions were raised about the need for new office space when there were plenty of vacant older offices available in and around the town.
“It’s all about the quality,” said Mr Ashall. “What’s happened over the past few weeks has demonstrated that there is significant latent demand for Grade A office space in the region and that Centre Square and Middlesbrough has the potential to become a major office hub in the North of England.
“Forward thinking companies understand that making their staff engaged and productive is a key determinant of their success and that one of the main ways of achieving this is to provide them with a great working environment with easy access to local amenities and the transportation network.
“Centre Square provides the tools for them to achieve this in a way that many alternatives in the area cannot.”
The fallout from Covid-19 will clearly have a lasting effect on the workplace and Mr Ashall believes there is already a re-evaluation of the role of the office and a review of space requirements.
“It has made many employers realise the importance of design and environmental controls and flexibility,” he said.
“Those in Grade A office space have been able to increase ventilation rates and the percentage of circulating outdoor air. They’ve also been able to reconfigure layouts to meet guidelines, and – compared to older spaces – that’s led to less disruption and impact on the numbers that can safely be accommodated.
“We believe that the office workplace will continue to be important as somewhere where staff get experiences that cannot easily be replicated elsewhere.
“Although many employee roles can be undertaken while working from home, others – such as creativity, spontaneous interactions and learning – are much more difficult to achieve there.”
Construction work on the new building – Six Centre Square – could begin quickly after planning approval is granted.
Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston said: “The recent announcements of occupiers for One and Two Centre Square are clear evidence that even in tough times we’ve really got something that appeals to top employers.
“There’s real momentum behind the whole Centre Square project and it’s fantastic to know that top businesses are already interested in future phases.
“Clearly any development will have to go through the planning process in the normal way, but the potential for jobs and long-term prosperity is huge.”