For any business adapting to new ways of working, managed office space can provide a stress-free solution. David Taylor, Group Estates Manager at Wrest Park Enterprise in Silsoe, explains how recent expansion and development has been put to full use to fill a growing need for flexibility and agility.
What was the vision for the site at the start of this phase of development?
It goes back to 10 years ago when Wrest Park Ltd bought the former agricultural college site at Silsoe. The 28-acre site included 40 buildings of various sizes, most of which were turned into workshops and warehouses, but we converted one, Enterprise House, into managed office space. It was clear then that flexible, no-fixed-term leases were popular and within a short space of time, a second building, Capability House, underwent development and opened to provide extra space. There was always further scope for expansion and we added another purpose-built facility, Endeavour House, a couple of years later. Two further adjacent buildings were earmarked for the future, and those ideas have taken shape over the past couple of years, and we finally saw them both open at the end of last year.
Talk us through what that work will mean to Wrest Park Enterprise?
When it first opened, Enterprise House provided 10,000 square feet of office space ranging in size from single desk offices to larger ones that would take up to 10 desks. Capability House then added 20,000 square feet of space, made up of single offices, larger suites for up to 40 desks, meeting rooms, a coffee shop and breakout areas.
Endeavour House was originally 5,000 square feet and the Phase 1 extension in late 2020 gave us another 5,000 square feet, within which 15 of the 17 offices are already occupied.
The Phase 2 extension to Enterprise House in early 2021 has 7,000 square feet offering potential for another 16 offices and six individual studios.
Obviously, we had doubts about how quickly we’d see the units fill up, given the challenges that businesses have been facing, but the response has been amazing. We’ve gradually grown to almost five times our original size, which is remarkable.
Describe the ‘typical’ tenant
There really is no such thing as a typical Wrest Park tenant. We have everything from one-man bands to larger companies, including those that have downsized or opened a second office, and they cover a whole range of sectors. What we have found when we’ve been letting the new offices is that there are a lot of start-ups – maybe people who have been made redundant or decided to take a new career path during lockdown – and also larger companies relocating from towns and cities because they have realised they don’t need as much space any more with people working from home.
It’s a time of great uncertainty and it suits a lot of businesses to be free of long-term leases or contracts but at the same time know they have the flexibility to grow if and when they need to.
So managed office space ticks those boxes?
Absolutely. Once the contract is signed for the minimum three-month period, you can move in as soon as you like and after the first three months, we only require four weeks’ notice. There are various office suites and combinations, ‘plug and play’ ultra-fast fibre broadband and VoIP telephony, so you can configure the space to suit your needs.
As well as that, tenants benefit from 24/7 secure access, a manned reception, on-site parking, a coffee shop and discounted rates on booking the meeting rooms.
When you add to that the fact that we’re in a fantastic location with excellent road links, have plenty of visitor parking and enjoy a relaxing rural setting with no city centre traffic or busy public transport to navigate, our appeal becomes even greater.
For those that don’t need a regular base, there’s a day office that can be booked on a short-term basis, where someone maybe needs to do something they can’t do from home or when they need to be free of distractions for a couple of days.
We also have socially distanced co-working spaces at £199 a month, where you can have a desk in a larger room with other people, which appeals to people who work alone but feel isolated and prefer to have that interaction.
Finally, Wrest Park Enterprise offers virtual tenancy, which offers a prestigious business address at just £45 plus VAT per month.
What plans do you have for the future of the site?
No-one has any idea what the future holds, but we’re very optimistic that Wrest Park will continue to flourish as a vibrant business community.
Over the past year we have continued to provide all the services and flexibility our longer-term tenants have come to expect, and we’ve also been able to respond to the needs of new tenants and come up with solutions that work for them.
Who knows how things will change once businesses start to get back to normal. Some companies may well feel the need to get back to larger, town or city centre offices, but I think a lot have adapted to a more agile approach and will find that staff have settled into new ways of working, so that a smaller central hub is all they need.
At the same time, as the situation improves, those start-ups and sole traders could well find that they start to grow and expand, bringing about a need for more space, and they have the flexibility at Wrest Park to do that.
To find out more about Wrest Park Enterprise or book a tour of the facilities, call 01525 306000