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Barr Ellison Solicitors – commercial property
23 June, 2020 - 22:21 By Tony Quested

‘Titanic’ to be sunk without trace as St John’s accelerates Cambridge expansion

The Cambridge building branded the Titanic because it was home to ill-fated tech company Ionica, which sunk without trace after a glorious embarkment, is to be demolished to make way for future expansion at St John’s Innovation Park.

St John’s College, along with park development manager Turnstone Estates and property adviser Savills, is bringing forward the next stage of development which involves demolishing St John’s House, Ionica’s former HQ, and the construction of two additional office buildings, a new transport hub and gymnasium in the north western corner of the park off Cowley Road.

The college is seeking permission for two Class B1 office buildings and a new transport hub, to incorporate parking, landscaping and infrastructure in the north western corner of the park. 

In addition, the transport hub will provide a gym, extensive cycle storage, shower facilities for cyclists and gym users and a cycle repair facility available to all park occupiers. 

A  planning application will be submitted in early July and on the assumption that the college achieves consent later this year, it is anticipated that construction would start mid-to end-2021.

The development will be two-phased. The first would see the construction of the first office scheme (Dirac Building) and the transport hub. The estimated construction time for this first phase is approximately 65 weeks. 

The second phase would include the demolition of St John’s House, which it is anticipated will take place in 2024. The start date for the construction of the second office building is still to be confirmed.

The new offices have been designed with ‘intelligent building’ and ‘smart office’ best practice principles in mind; utilising technology and process to create a safer and more productive environment for occupiers, in addition to greater operational efficiency.

Being mindful of the environmental impact of both the construction and onward management of these buildings is a priority for the college. No cost has yet been given for the expansion scheme.

The college has been encouraged by the tremendous and quickfire response to the construction of the Maurice Wilkes Building at the park, where space was rapidly taken up by cybersecurity specialist Darktrace, financial adviser PwC, microcomputer pioneer Raspberry Pi and IP law firm Mewburn Ellis.

Despite telecom company Ionica’s high profile rise and fall – it was the fastest Cambridge company to hit unicorn (billion dollar valuation) status but plummeted into administration – over the course of time the Titanic sobriquet was eventually overcome and Cambridge Silicon Radio made it one of their many homes in the vicinity. CSR was then acquired by Qualcomm.

St John’s Innovation Park has remained a magnet, via its many buildings, to a sizeable number of world-class technology businesses with some outstanding recent successes heightening the park’s profile.

Along with the neighbouring Cambridge Science Park, it has acted as a magnet for prominent businesses moving away from the city centre to enjoy the many benefits of a northern fringe location linking in to the newly-upgraded A14.

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