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Carter Jonas
13 October, 2019 - 19:35 By Will Mooney, Partner, Commercial, Carter Jonas Cambridge

Second half surge promises to give Cambridge property scene a bumper 2019

Autumn is traditionally a time when activity steps up a gear before Christmas, however in recent months, there has been plenty keeping the team busy, particularly with commercial property, writes Will Mooney, Partner, Carter Jonas Cambridge.

Though economic and political uncertainties dominate the news agenda, the region’s high exposure to the knowledge-based sectors, including hi-tech, education and pharmaceuticals, as well as the creative sectors and professional services, is supporting the market, perhaps protecting us from the indecision impacting other areas of the UK.

Our recently launched Commercial Edge research report found that office and lab take-up was a little above average during the first half of 2019, totalling 407,000 sq ft. 

This is 13 per cent above the average since 2010 of 360,000 sq ft, and well above the lacklustre 156,000 sq ft let during the second half of 2018.  Above-average take-up underlines the strength of the Cambridge market and Cambridgeshire and its surrounding regions continue to thrive. 

Whilst availability across the city remained broadly static, in May, WeWork agreed a deal to take around 48,000 sq ft across three floors of Brookgate’s 50/60 Station Road development as part of its further expansion into several UK cities. 

This is a key deal for Cambridge and provides a major boost to the city’s flexible workspace offer in addition to existing operators such as Regus and Central Working.

Pre-letting has also been a feature of the market so far this year. DisplayLink has taken a pre-let of 61,000 sq ft at 22 Cambridge Science Park at a rent of £33.75 psf, whilst Apple is under offer at Brookgate’s 30 Station Road with a pre-let of 79,000 sq ft.

Enquiry levels are holding up, with several AI and tech companies actively considering the city centre, and several lab occupiers are looking out of town. We, therefore, expect take-up to be robust in the second half of the year, which will contribute to a strong overall figure for 2019.

Several announcements concerning development provide another reason to remain positive. In May, following the successful marketing of the six-acre Shire Hall site in Central Cambridge – Cambridgeshire County Council confirmed award-winning regeneration company Brookgate as their preferred bidder for the lease of the site. 

Further negotiations are underway between the parties and our commercial agency and development teams are proud to be working with Brookgate to ensure the future success and delivery of this heritage site. 

Phased re-development continues around the established science parks, with good quality refurbished and new space now becoming available at Cambridge Science Park. 

Additionally, the development of Brookgate’s mixed-use CB4 scheme at Cambridge North is progressing and work on the office element could potentially start next year. This follows the start of construction of the Novotel earlier this year.

Elsewhere, in August, Mid Suffolk District Council’s subsidiary company, Gateway 14 Ltd, announced that it had completed the purchase of Stowmarket EAST, a 54-acre site next to the A14 at junction 50 – part of the wider 195-acre Stowmarket Business Park. 

It’s situated midway between Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds and is 25 miles from Felixstowe and 45 miles from Cambridge. The sale is a key milestone in Carter Jonas’ five-year involvement in the project, which included input from our planning, development and commercial teams. 

It is extremely exciting as it will unlock the site’s development plans and provide a potential multi-million-pound boost for the local economy and wider region.

The advancement of each of these schemes is extremely positive and, when considered alongside our latest commercial property data, help to further enhance the region’s reputation and overall appeal. 

Whilst 2019 might not be shaping up to be a stellar year on a national level, in Cambridge it seems, there are reasons to be cheerful.

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