Renaissance man who’s under-cutting rents across London

Renaissance, the five-storey office block on Dingwall Road, close to East Croydon railway station, opened last week, offering office space at one-fifth of the cost of rates in the West End, Canary Wharf and the City of London, according to the man behind the development, Mark Glatman.

RenaissanceThe building is the first “speculative” office build – which has gone ahead without any tenancies agreed before construction began – in Croydon for 20 years. But as well as under-cutting the rental prices in central London, Renaissance is also significantly cheaper than the rates required by other developers in Croydon. Just up the road, “Ruskin Square” has stood as an empty and undeveloped building site for eight years as Stanhope Schroders seek the financial commitment of a prestige anchor tenant for the Norman Foster designs. Those drawings, however, remain on the drawing board.

Some 40 per cent of Renaissance’s 100,000 sq ft has already been let, with the first and second floors taken by the Pension Protection Fund, who are due to move in next month. The building was sold three months ahead of completion to M&G Real Estate.

Glatman, who put together the funding deal to develop the project, said, “The rent is £22 a foot on a 15-year lease but, more importantly, the finance director likes hearing that it’s £3,000 per workspace. That is significantly cheaper than anything else [in] London – probably 100 per cent cheaper than most locations.” This quote was distributed in a press release courtesy of Grey Label, the local PR firm which receives much public money courtesy of Croydon Council.

Glatman is clearly keen to ride on the coat tails of the £1.5 billion Hammersfield development on the other side of Wellesley Road, and the £50 million (estimates and political boasts vary) of enhancements promised for the public realm in the town centre.

“We’re not just giving the centre of Croydon a facelift, we’re giving it a full bodylift,” was the hyperbole offered in support from Croydon Council’s £1,000 per day interim director of planning, Paul Spooner. At that price, you’d think he’d employ a better scriptwriter.

The building’s tenants will be among the first to benefit properly from the £22 million spent on the new pedestrian access and incomplete bridge at the northern end of East Croydon station (though not if they wish to cross to the other side of the railway tracks to Cherry Orchard Road…).

And Glatman is ploughing on. His company, Abstract, has now purchased nearby Emerald House, in Lansdowne Road.

“Renaissance is the first speculative building in Croydon for 20 years and we think this is going to be the beginning of Croydon,” Glatman said, apparently unaware of the town’s millennium’s worth of history nor, apparently, of the meaning of “renaissance”.

What is interesting about Renaissance is that it has been delivered, and tenants found, far speedier and more cost-effectively than most of the projects in which Croydon Council or Laing, their partners in the speculative £450 million property scheme, have been involved. Little wonder, then, that despite having minimal involvement, the council has swung behind the project’s opening so enthusiastically, clearly desperate to associate themselves with some form of success in the town centre.

It could prove to be an unfortunate association for the borough as a whole: if Croydon Council is seen to be backing a business model that under-cuts the major developers, rendering their sites and investments less valuable, will that deter the likes of Stanhope and Menta from pursuing their plans for Croydon?

In the overall scheme of things, Renaissance will deliver relatively few jobs to replace those lost – at Nestle, Bank of America or the various government departments – in the last two years. How many jobs in the building will be filled by  unemployed Croydon residents, neither Renaissance nor the council is saying.

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1 Response to Renaissance man who’s under-cutting rents across London

  1. davidcallam says:

    Interesting: a five-storey building, offered at bargain basement rents and still 60 per cent empty.

    I’m not knocking the developer – even if he has allowed himself to be carried away by his modest success – I’m simply suggesting that this is a good example of the true state of the commercial property market.

    Those who are waiting for rental values to return to pre crash levels will need infinite patience.

    Expect central Croydon to go on looking like a war zone for some time yet.

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