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2 March, 2018 - 11:28 By Judith Gaskell

£28m Cambridge wellbeing centre matches best of US

It’s called The Apiary and there was certainly a buzz about Granta Park’s new 40,000 sq ft fitness and wellbeing centre when it officially launched this week.

Open for just two weeks, it is already a hive of activity, having attracted 550 members (a quarter of the park’s workforce) and firmly putting the bee into biotech!

“This took us by surprise, but validates our rationale and reasoning behind the centre,” said Douglass Cuff, senior director of development for park owner BioMed Realty.

The company has spent a staggering £28 million on the facility with the aim of making it on a par with the best on offer in the major US technology cities of San Francisco, Boston, San Diego and Seattle – and superior to anything in the UK.

The Apiary has been in the planning since 2015. “We’d done our two pre lets with Illumina and Gilead and wanted to expand our offering to the wider market,” says Cuff.

“We wanted to compete with the local market here, but we also wanted to raise Granta and Cambridge to compete with the major life science clusters. This is the level of offering that those markets such as Boston and San Francisco have, but’s there’s nothing like it in the entire country here.”

To create it, BioMed has teamed up with Nuffield Health and TnS Catering. The centre includes a 25m pool, climbing wall, two outdoor tennis courts, squash courts, a gym with £750,000 of equipment and five studios (including a dedicated spinning one) running 66 classes a week.

There are also plans for wellbeing services including GP and physio and treatment rooms. The adjoining restaurant supplies post workout hot and cold healthy meals to eat in and take away and a juice bar.

For BioMed it’s all about attracting the best companies and helping those companies attract the best staff. “What we’re seeing here is a race for talent. So the more these companies can provide the more they are going to attract and retain their talent, explains Cuff.

“If you provide that you are going to draw those companies to you. When we have big pharma companies looking at say Stockholm and Boston we want to make sure they pick Cambridge.”

The company isn’t going to stop here though. “I think the big challenge that Cambridge has versus the other markets is that they are highly urbanised. There are a lot of things at people’s fingertips.

“Cambridge has an urban centre but it’s mostly suburban and agricultural. It’s bringing those amenities, wherever they are, to the doorstep, which is why we’ve expanded the bus service and are trying to do more here, such as the farmers’ market we now have.”

The next move for Granta Park will be to welcome life science company Heptares in the summer and a new on-site nursery for 112 children will open in June.

Away from the park, BioMed has just signed the lease on the £35m project BioMed @ Babraham, a joint UK/US expansion at Babraham Research Campus announced last autumn.

Speaking at the launch Councillor Peter Topping, Leader of South Cambs District Council, welcomed the new facility as well as the way Granta Park reached out to the local community.

“It’s important for the future of the UK the connections with villages is good. When primary school children use the facilities here thanks to Nuffield they can think that in 20 years’ time they could be here doing research. That’s really important and is one of the reasons why we’re so glad to be associated with it and what’s happening at Granta Park.”

The buzz around the centre will continue into the spring when a soon to arrive colony of bees will produce the first Granta Park honey. 

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