More cranes on the horizon as property developers fund city centre office and housing schemes

September 23, 2019

Bristol city centre is undergoing its biggest phase of property development in more than a decade as investment for new offices and homes continues to pour in.

The latest scheme to be announced is a 33,750 sq ft showpiece office building next to 100 Temple Street and fronting onto the new Temple Circus redevelopment, pictured right, while the next phase of the Finzels Reach development featuring a 116,000 sq ft office building and nearly 300 homes has been recommended for approval by planners. 

Meanwhile, Bristol’s tallest tower crane is being erected on the former ambulance station site next to Castle Park to build the 26-storey, 375-home Castle Park View tower – which will be the city’s highest residential building.

The 102-metre high crane is the latest in a growing number against the city skyline – acting as a sign that Mayor Marvin Rees recently claimed shows Bristol is now becoming a city where things happen after many years of inaction by the council.

He told a recent topping out ceremony at Wapping Wharf, where 250 homes are under development, that he wanted to see more cranes on the horizon.

“The image of Bristol is changing from a city where nothing got done to one where thing are happening. Housebuilders want to do business with us,” he said.

Pictured: Mayor Marvin Rees, left, at the Wapping Wharf topping out with Duncan Cumberland of developer Muse, centre, and Stuart Hatton of developer Umberslade

“A lot of effort was spent before on things like trying to build the arena in the wrong place. We are building relationships now with developers to deliver housing. We are working together and really driving things forward.”

Wapping Wharf, like many sites now under development in and around the city centre, had been delayed by the recession and restrictions on finance. But investment is now flooding into the city.

The latest office building to be announced is the result of the sale of land next to the city council’s 100 Temple Street building, which houses the mayor’s office. The site was previously occupied by a disused squash court, part of the original landmark office scheme when it was built for insurer London Life in the 1970s, and a car park.

London-based boutique developer Nord, which has bought the site for an undisclosed sum from the council, has named the scheme One Portwall Square. Previously known as Portwall Gate, the six-storey building has been designed by Stirling Prize-winning architecture firm AHMM, which has pre-let one floor and will relocate its expanding Bristol office there when the scheme is completed in spring 2021. 

According to AHMM, One Portwall Square, pictured right, will use a passive cooling system coupled with natural ventilation and is looking to achieve a BREEAM Excellent accreditation emphasising its sustainability and energy efficiency credentials.

It is also connecting to the city council’s pioneering district heat network providing a more sustainable way of heating that offers cost efficiencies and a greener energy source. In addition, the building is targeting a platinum WiredScore certification in recognition of its commitment to outstanding connectivity, as well as a CyclingScore certification to demonstrate its health and wellbeing focus.

The plans include a new ‘pocket square’ in front of the building with space for pop-up retailers.

Nord director Richard Jones said: “We are delighted to have secured this fantastic site in a prime Bristol location. Bristol is a dynamic market with strong office demand and we look forward to delivering a vibrant new commercial scheme with generous internal volumes and flexible workspaces for a modern generation of tenants.”

Bristol deputy mayor and cabinet member for finance, governance and performance, Cllr Craig Cheney added: “Having this part of the 100 Temple Street car park transformed into not only new offices but also a recreational area to be used by the public is a creative use of space in what is an evolving area of the city.’’

The plans for the latest part of Bristol developer Cubex’s Finzels Reach scheme is on the site of the former Avon & Somerset Fire and Rescue headquarters and will deliver 297 homes, including 231 build-to-rent apartments and over 20% affordable homes, pictured left, along with a cutting-edge office building for around 1,100 workers, pictured below. There will also be investment in improvements to the area, including new landscaping, traffic management, pedestrian and cycle routes.

The scheme, on the opposite side of Counterslip from the current Finzels Reach development now stands derelict, has been identified by Bristol City Council as an area for more dense urban development.

Building on additional feedback on the £140m scheme, Cubex has reduced the size and shape of the scheme by slimming the design of the taller of the buildings proposed and removing two storeys from the lower elevation along Templeback. This has resulted in a reduction of 21 private apartments. 

Other city centre schemes underway at present include Royal London’s 393,000 sq ft mixed-used Glassfields scheme, which will include offices, homes and a 200-room Jurys In Hotel, and AXA and Bellhammer’s 300,000 sq ft office and retail scheme, Assembly Bristol – both on Temple Way – and Change Real Estate’s 600,000 sq ft development at Redcliff Quarter, which will include homes, bars, restaurants, a European-style food hall, upmarket hotel and co-working space.

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