Published by kind permission of the North East Times.
Fergus Trim, director at Broadoak Asset Management, talks to Chris Dobson about his ten years at Quorum Business Park, North Tyneside.
Quorum is one of the region’s largest business parks. Could you remind me of the key statistics?
There are 16 office buildings at Quorum totaling just short of one million square feet. In terms of capacity, the park can accommodate up to 10,000 employees. We have seen steady growth over recent years with 25 businesses now at the park. Between them, they employ over 6,000 staff on site. There is a wide range of sectors and sizes of businesses at Quorum from small start-ups in the serviced office and managed suites to large major businesses such as Tesco Bank, who have close on 1000 staff.
You’ve been involved in this project throughout its development. What was your role?
I was working in London when I approached about taking on the Quorum role almost exactly 10 years ago. At that stage, half the park had been built and five tenants were on site. The vision was to double the size of the park, reinvest the onsite offer and significantly drive the occupancy forward. At that stage, I was working on some significant business parks in Cambridge and the M25/ M4 area, and I brought ideas around place making, quality of environment and staff amenity up to the North East.
For me, the place making was the key element, carefully planning the shared spaces, and providing important break-out and amenity spaces, such as our sports courts. This and the events programme we host gets staff out of their buildings and gets them to become part of a wider community.
What have been the outstanding lettings?
Every one of our 25 new tenants have been important to us, being a vote of confidence in our offer, when there are so many other options out there. One highlight has been attracting headquarters of some major North East businesses such as Greggs PLC, British Engines and NCFE, as we always set the park up as a headquarters-quality environment.
Another significant highlight has been landing inward investments, typically projects that looked across the country, where we were in
competition with other UK and international locations. We have landed five such projects that have created over 2250 new jobs for the region. Landing Tesco Bank was a key milestone for us and brought over 1000 jobs in a single hit on a 15 year commitment.
How has Quorum helped the region’s image?
A significant part of my role is selling Quorum and the Newcastle city region on a national and international stage. We work closely with a number of important partners including North Tyneside Council, Invest Newcastle and Invest North East England to get the message out there. At the end of last year, I was in India talking to potential occupiers about Newcastle and the skills base in our growing IT cluster. It is important that we are seen as acting with scale to get us onto the radar of international investors.
Quorum has helped this in as much as we offer immediately available space at a time when large city centre floor plates are scarce. Many of the inward investment projects are fast moving and having space built and available is always important.
Visually, Quorum is an outstanding development. How did you develop the masterplan and what was the brief?
The brief from the outset was clear, to have a closely master planned semi-urban environment. The buildings are all close together, all fronting on to the Avenue with connectivity and pedestrian break-out spaces linking the buildings. Car parking is hidden behind the buildings.
Another important focus was on health and well-being with free to use sports courts, events spaces, BBQ and an outdoor gym, and free to use bicycles and table tennis tables etc.
What other projects are Broadoak involved in?
Quorum is our largest project, so our focus remains working with the investors and supporting the occupiers here in Newcastle. Another significant project we are working on is the 750,000 sq ft Maxim Office Park near
Glasgow. Maxim has seen some good recent letting activity and has massively benefitted from the recent M8 motorway upgrade, which now sees ten lanes of motorway serve the park, with tenants attracted to the excellent connectivity to both Edinburgh and Glasgow.
While Scotland is important to us, my focus remains on the North East. Here we are talking to a number of partners about potential new projects, and I’m really excited about the opportunities in the North East over the next few years.
Will Broadoak continue to have a presence in the North East?
Yes. I live locally and this is now home for three generations of the Trim family. My parents have followed us up the road, and my children have all grown up here. After 10 years we have really put down roots. The quality of life is fantastic and I can’t now imagine living anywhere else.
Business-wise, I see real opportunities in the North East going forward. As long as we can all work hard to grasp devolution, and demand the investment we need to realise the massive potential we have as a region. Hopefully Broadoak will have a part to play in delivering the workspace we need for the growing North East business base.