A Taste of the Future at Arlington Business Park

This article originally appeared on the Thames Valley Property website at: http://www.tvproperty.co.uk/news/a-taste-of-the-future-at-arlington-business-park
A business park which had become one of the most dated in the Thames Valley has been transformed into one of the most modern.
A joint venture between Patron Capital and APAM bought 11 buildings on Arlington Business Park totaling 360,000 sq ft in March 2015 and began a programme of bringing it up to and beyond modern requirements.
A new café with cashless payment system, gymnasium, floating meeting room on the lake, concierge services and a tenant events programme has given new life to the Theale business park.
Now those services have been unveiled along with upgraded building reception areas and park-wide landscaping. There is also new lighting and signage upgrades underway and two building refurbishments are to start imminently.
APAM director Chris Taylor said: “We bought the park with the view that it needed repositioning. We perceived that there had been, for various reasons, a lack of inward investment in the business park; a lack of capital expenditure for a number of years which had left it unlit and behind the curve.
“What did we see as an attraction? The connectivity of the park to the M4 and via Theale station is great as is the car parking ratio, one of the best in the Thames Valley but the real opportunity was to completely reinvent the park.
“There was a lack of amenity on the park. Historically the park has had lots of buildings that were single let.
“Those tenants had taken a building and put their own café in it, so each building was effectively isolated. Everyone who wanted amenity space, built their own. There was no connection between the buildings and its tenants and no community feel to the park. We needed to readdress the balance.”
He said as the park’s new owners they could see an opportunity to upgrade and improve the offer for tenants and their employees and make it a more attractive and desirable place to work.
A survey of 1,500 tenant employees shortly after APAM acquired the park revealed an unsurprising desire for a café but a higher- than-expected demand for a gymnasium, both of which were subsequently created.
However Mr Taylor says APAM wanted to offer something special. An idyllic lake in the centre of the park between the buildings presented an opportunity to create a signature feature where no land existed.
Mr Taylor said: “We wanted to do something different, something unique for the tenants that are here. Tenant feedback showed that our occupiers craved external meeting room and events space they could use outside of the four walls of their office.
“We looked at using vacant built space across the park to provide this but then thought ‘lets do something quirky and use one of the park’s most desirable features, the lake itself’. The facility is stunning and our tenants can’t wait to use the floating pavilion when it opens next month.”
“We wanted to take Arlington up to the level of its peers and we have been working to take it one step beyond. There should be more engagement between the buildings and the tenants themselves.”
The new facilities are exclusive to APAM’s tenants on the park through a scheme called ‘Around the Lake’. A membership/entry swipe card doubles up as a cashless payment card and that exclusivity ensures it remains an attraction for occupiers. The floating meeting room will offer a venue and view few can match.
Mr Taylor said while several major occupiers remain on the park, including Wrigley, Clearswift and CTIL (a joint venture between Telefonica and Vodafone), and more are welcome, today’s most vibrant market is among growing SMEs wanting between 2,500 and 15,000 sq ft.
Mr Taylor believes that demand requires greater landlord flexibility of its space including sub-dividing not only buildings, but floors themselves to create smaller spaces for the burgeoning SME market. That strategy, he said, is wholly consistent with APAM’s place making strategy.
“We want to create a diverse multi-let environment where we can offer tenants flexibility of occupation and assist them as their businesses hopefully expand or, in some cases, contract. We would much rather a tenant downsize on the park than leave altogether. Providing amenity on the park is one element of this but ultimately the value of strong landlord/tenant relations is key.”
APAM’s offer has been reflected in its successes to date. In one instance the landlord fitted out a new occupier’s premises instead of offering a rent-free period, so that moving in was made simpler and the upfront cost to the tenant, negated.
Eight new lettings have been completed since APAM began its transformation and in its next move the landlord is considering offering co-working space. Small technology firms are driving much of the demand and a technology hub is another idea being seriously considered.
APAM is keen to keen to embrace the Thames Valley’s vibrant tech market. With over 50,000 sq ft of accommodation about to be fully refurbished and completed by Q3, 2018, creating the right product to meet tenant demand is central to APAMs thinking.
Further improvements and upgrades to the park are planned while a tenant engagement programme is expanding rapidly. Alongside 15 fitness classes a week in the gym, there are varied events ranging from quizzes to beauty concierge and including language and first aid classes.
Successful events in the past year include outdoor cinemas, summer sports days, Formula 1 pit-stop challenges. Mr Taylor added: “Our challenge is to keep the events programme fresh and to react to tenant demand. If someone has an idea for an event, we’ll consider it.”
The last big event was the park’s Christmas Fayre on December 6 where for the second year running, the park was opened to the local community to bring their families. Local schools joined in.
Mr Taylor said that kind of community engagement helps spread the word among parents and their families and friends that Arlington has something new to offer.
He believes the perception of J12 has also changed now. It had been considered one junction too far from London. But he added: “It was known as Theale, not Reading but following the opening of Ikea this year, people’s perceptions have changed.
“It’s clear from APAM’s activity over the past two years that people’s perception of Arlington Business Park has also changed.”
This article originally appeared on the Thames Valley Property website at: http://www.tvproperty.co.uk/news/a-taste-of-the-future-at-arlington-business-park

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