Leeds emerges as a high-quality digital hub

Clarence Dock, Leeds (Taken by Richard Wilson)

Leeds emerges as a high-quality digital hub

Leeds is emerging as a digital hub as demand for trendy office space in the city increases sharply, according to a report by property consultancy Knight Frank.

Shoreditch is the most expensive tech district in the world, with intense demand for office space pushing rents higher than those in Mid-Market, San Francisco, and almost double those in Brooklyn, New York.

The 2018 Global Cities report analyses the cost of office space in the tech and creative districts of the world’s leading cities.

It identifies Shoreditch as the world’s most expensive tech district, where rents have reached £69 per sq ft, - almost as high as prime rents in London’s main financial district.

Knight Frank’s analysis also shows that a number of European cities offer more affordable workspace for tech and creative businesses.

In Berlin’s Potzdamer Platz office rents are just £31 per sq ft, while the city centre in Amsterdam, which is home to the city centre’s burgeoning tech sector, offers office space at £26 per sq ft.

It seems Leeds is now following suit. The example set by the pioneering Round Foundry Media Centre, which transformed a historic, but derelict, area of the city into a thriving 21st business location has fuelled the desire for cutting-edge office space, combining a heritage setting with modern technology, says Knight Frank.

Eamon Fox, partner and head of office agency at Knight Frank in Leeds, said: “Recruitment and retention of talented staff is not just about the benefits package. 

“Having an office that is both an inspiring and enjoyable place to work is now a critical, cost-effective way to successfully attract the most talented employees.

“Our future offices must break the mould of the past two decades.  If organisations want to attract the best and keep their workforce, they need to create spaces that their staff will want to work in. The Round Foundry, with its ground-breaking mix of the ancient and modern, has led the way in Leeds.

“The newest generation of workers expect their office to be an inspiring and enjoyable place to work.

“Historically the preserve of technology and media firms, the new ideal office combines collaborative spaces with individual work areas, as well as providing amenities that encourage people to think of work as an extension of the home.”

Eamon cites the £1.5 million refurbishment of Concordia Works in Sovereign Street, close to Sovereign Square on the banks of the River Aire, as a solution to the increasing demand for trendy office space in Leeds.

He added: “The 13,922 sq ft Concordia Works is a unique and striking property, set over five floors and situated just a short walk from Leeds City Station and the main retail heart of the city.

“Built in the early 20th century, this former yarn and cord warehouse is being refurbished by London-based developers Boultbee Brooks with modern businesses in mind, whilst maintaining its existing structure and original period features. It has already attracted a number of cutting-edge tech companies. ”

Rents are in the region of £25 per sq ft for Concordia Works, compared with the headline rent in Leeds which is £30 per sq ft, achieved at 6 Queen Street where fashion brand Burberry has just moved in.

James Nicholson, a partner at Knight Frank Tech said: “Whilst Shoreditch is just one submarket favoured by tech and creative firms, this submarket is the poster child for the growth of London’s tech-driven evolution - the high rents reflect how greatly tech and creative firms value having an office in the capital.

“Since 2011, the technology, media and telecoms or TMT sector overtook finance as the largest source of office demand in London and has held that leading position ever since.

“As the tech ecosystem in London matures, companies have demonstrated a willingness to pay more, to create the best possible workplace for staff.

“Creating great ‘user experience’ is paramount for those looking to attract and retain the best talent.

“This direct association between workplace and talent has forced businesses to prioritise working environment over and above a general desire to keeping costs low.”