Occupiers flock to Manchester’s tech-enabled office market


3 / 31 / 2021


Greater Manchester has a rich commercial history. Once known as “Cottonopolis”, Manchester was a focal point of the industrial revolution, considered “without challenge the first and greatest industrial city in the world” (Peter Hall, Cities in Civilisation) , as its textiles and shipping industry made the city one of the most prosperous in Europe.

Industries came and went. Textile manufacturing began declining in the mid-19th Century, and by 1968 the cotton exchange had closed, followed soon after by the closure of the port in 1982. But Manchester’s success comes from its ability to adapt and evolve, and the city’s new-found appetite for commercial real estate sees it expanding at an exponential rate – a rate that shows no sign of slowing down.

Today, office markets around the world are faced with systemic questions about the structure and role they have to play in the working world. How will we use the office? What should it offer? And it’s up to Commercial Real Estate to answer those questions with clarity, accuracy and efficiency.

Technological investment in Greater Manchester proves that a well-designed, well-connected, inspiring office is absolutely fundamental as we emerge from lockdown and head towards new working practices.

A city symbolized by the worker bee, and touted Europe’s next epicenter of creativity, great swathes of developers have flocked to the city to capitalize on the huge commercial benefits Manchester has to offer.

Beyond Europe, foreign fast-growing countries see Manchester as a gateway city to the UK. Airlines such as Cathay Pacific now fly direct from Hong Kong to Manchester, as the city rises to compete with the shining allure of London (Manchester Airport flies to 199 destinations, whilst Heathrow only flies to 185).

Most recently, the BBC announced that as part of a regional expansion throughout the UK, MediaCity will be the main base for the organization’s digital and technology teams. As the only WiredScore certified neighbourhood in Europe, MediaCity offers unparalleled digital connectivity throughout the campus, establishing it as a tech hub for UK businesses, with key occupiers including the likes of ITV, SIS, NEP Connect and Ericsson.

Throughout Q1 2021, occupiers have shown considerable belief in the Greater Manchester office market, with Brown Shipley taking 11,342 sq ft at Schroders’ No 1 Spinningfields (WiredScore Platinum) and Barings Real Estate’s WiredScore Platinum rated Landmark scheme, recording the highest-ever headline office rent in Manchester when Grant Thornton chose the building as the new location for their 350-strong Manchester workforce.

Further, CBRE’s flexible working arm Hana has committed to 26,000 sq ft at FORE Partnership’s Windmill Green, another WiredScore Platinum rated building. Arkwright House, asset managed by PGIM, has also secured a WiredScore Platinum rating, and in February serviced office provider Orega announced that they will be taking 30,000 sq ft at the building.

Digital connectivity is of paramount importance to occupiers who recognize that offices need to be flexible, agile, well connected spaces featuring an exceptional digital infrastructure. Manchester is setting the example as a forward-thinking city with connectivity at its core, proving that innovation is key to any landlord wishing to be successful in the space.

The office is by no means dead, but it is changing – CRE must be prepared to adapt and evolve like Manchester. Simply put, spaces designed to suit the dynamic, agile, tech-dependent workforces of today are the ones destined to succeed.

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