Q & A: Kevin McGorie of Sanderson Weatherall

Kevin, please tell us how office buildings are adapting to changing working patterns, as a result of the pandemic?

I think more than anything, office buildings are looking to become more ‘tenant-friendly’ since the pandemic. Everyone appreciates that attracting employees back to work means giving them good environments and I think that landlords and developers have taken that on board as well as employers.

There is a drive towards buildings which have top quality common areas and facilities for staff to enjoy. ‘Best in class’ is a phrase which comes to mind, and landlords/developers are delivering that in our city at present.

How do you think the East Pilgrim Street development will impact the commercial property sector in Newcastle?

It’s been a long time coming, but as they say good things come to those who wait. I think as a city we have been screaming out for this development for many years and it will no doubt be a superb addition to the streetscape of the city.

East Pilgrim Street is such a strategically well-located element of the city, a stone’s throw from the main retail hub in Northumberland Street/Eldon Square, and of course directly adjacent to Grey Street, which was the main business district for many years.

The reality is, Grey Street has faded as an office location as the products available struggle to meet the demands of modern-day occupiers. However, if it was purely on location, it is still attractive to office occupiers in the city due to its central proximity.

You would expect the East Pilgrim Street redevelopment to change the dynamic of the city once again and I see this area, including Portland House, becoming the most desired location for office occupiers going forward. You will have the benefit of the perfect location as well as the modern functionality of Grade A office suites, which is the ideal scenario for any business owner.

What advice would you give to companies who feel that their office space is not best serving the needs of their business?

Speak to the professionals. For various reasons businesses tend to go and search for properties on their own and without knowing it, they generally will get something that looks nice, or seems cheap, but doesn’t quite tick all of the boxes going forward.

The first thing you need to know, is exactly how much space do I need. The only way to do that is to engage with a space planner. The first thing we do at Portland House when people do a viewing, is ask them what they need from their office space in terms of number of desks, meeting rooms, kitchen, break outs, etc,

We then arrange for Ultimate Group to produce a floor plan to illustrate the fitted-out space. On most occasions occupiers realise that the space they thought they wanted, is completely different to what they need. From there we can get into the nitty gritty of things to ensure that the tenant takes the right space for them for the future of their business. A happy tenant gives us a happy landlord.

How much consideration should office occupiers give towards a property’s energy performance rating when looking for new office space?

This is a very interesting point and the reality is that with climate change very much in the forefront of people’s minds at the moment, it is definitely more prevalent than ever.

I think, in general, businesses want to play their part in helping with CO2 emissions and going to a greener building is a very easy way of doing that.

Newcastle is a city with a huge stock of listed buildings, so naturally trying to hit these high standards for many landlords in the city is going to be a real challenge, but I am sure any small improvement by all will be a massive overall benefit in regard to climate change and CO2 emissions.

We do find that, from a landlord’s point of view, the majority are trying to get their buildings as high up the EPC ratings as possible, as they definitely see it as a big attraction to a tenant. This is another string in the Portland House bow, as the building has an EPC rating of ‘B’.

Are you seeing demand for office space is currently greater amongst some specific sectors?

Generally Newcastle is a very diverse city in terms of office demand and that is exactly what we continue to see in the region. We have a very strong tech/creative market in the region, which is certainly a very active sector in the market at present, but I think this is also relevant to the professional service sector with some significant activity in the market also on that front.

Rents for Grade A office space appear to be on the rise in Newcastle. What’s the current situation and what are your predictions for 2023?

Newcastle has been somewhat of a sleeping giant in recent years, but the reality is that has likely been driven by a lack of supply of true Grade A stock.

It is no surprise to the majority of property professionals that the delivery of new developments such as The Lumen, The Spark, or Bank House, has caused a spike in Grade A office rents. The rents are also being driven by the change in market sentiment with tenants now looking towards those ‘best in class’ offices rather than the more cost effective options. It won’t be long before Grade A offices in the region hit the magic headline figure of £30 per sq. ft.

What are the key features of Portland House that will make it an appealing proposition to occupiers?

I might be biased but I think Portland House is going to be a pretty special scheme. The top floor suite with the balcony all the way around the perimeter is sublime. The meeting rooms and break out facilities will be second to none, as will the toilets, cycle and shower facilities.

The property is WiredScore Platinum so for your IT team that is a massive tick in the box and in terms of back up power, again the building is second to none (it was an ex-bank so it was well built for this). Secured car parking in the basement is a rare benefit and lastly and simply the best thing about the building is the simplest… an unbeatable location.

In your view, what impact can a positive working environment have on an organisation?

Its huge. It’s basic psychology but the fact is that happy workers are proven to be more productive, and one of the biggest factors on a worker’s happiness is their working environment. So, it’s very simple, if you give your staff the best environment to work in, you will most likely get the best results that they are capable of.

Let’s be honest, all businesses have one end goal and that is results, so it just makes sense to give your business the best chance of results by starting with the best working environment…. and for many, Portland House could be just that