Reading’s Station Hill is attracting interest from office occupiers considering taking large numbers of the flats in the scheme.
Plans for phases two and three of the development went on show to the public on Friday and Saturday following the submission of the latest planning application, a hybrid proposal comprising detailed permission for phase two and outline permission for phase three.
Phase two is a 260,000 sq ft office building with flexible ground floor retail on a podium which has parking below and public realm above and links to the 538 Build-to-Rent apartments in phase one via a new pedestrian bridge over Garrard Street.
Alex Aitchison, director of development for Lincoln Property, part of the Lincoln MGT joint venture, developing the site, said interest had been considerable in both residential and office elements of the mixed-use scheme.
He told Thames Tap: “A large proportion of (potential) occupiers have been asking about the residential apartments to block book lots of those to house their graduates.”
He added: “It’s been overwhelming how many people are interested in having a front door in Reading.”
Occupier demand, driven less by rent and more by availability of staff, he said, is high yet little new stock is available in town. He believes the success of Thames Tower could be replicated at Station Hill.
Subject to planning, phase two, scheduled to take two years, would complete around the same time as phase one – where construction is due to start in Spring – at the end of 2022.
However, phase three has no specific timescale and is designed to be much more flexible. Office, hotel, Built-to-Rent flats, privately owned flats and even retirement living is under consideration for that section which is to the north west of the site.
The public realm in phase two has been redesigned to have a softer look and has been made more green following previous consultation. It will be capable of hosting public events.
Mr Aitchison argues that connectivity, long considered one of the town’s strengths, is not just about Crossrail but about the north to south rail links which puts Reading at an advantage over Slough where a major mixed use scheme is planned.
Despite fears of saturation in Build-to-Rent in Reading, Lincoln MGT believes there is still considerable demand and that its vast experience of the concept in the US and elsewhere will give it an advantage over competitors.
Mr Aitchison said: “It’s about giving a quality of service and ours is so much better than anybody else’s. Ultimately they stand the test of time.”
He said a pragmatic approach has been taken to ensure Station Hill is deliverable this time and believes the fundamentals of the scheme are so strong it would succeed even if the UK was not experiencing increased activity in 2020.
He added: “Regional markets have moved on and, as in many other towns, it’s now about the war for talent. So the time for Reading and the time for Station Hill is now.
“There is an air of optimism. There has been an incredible amount of time and hard work to make this deliverable but now everything is moving in the right direction.”
© Thames Valley Property No 196 (tvproperty.co.uk)