Friar Gate Square chief defends design of office block as firms look to move in
WORK on Derby's first new major office block in 20 years is due to finish this month with two firms interested in taking over the entire building.
And now the company managing the Friar Gate Square scheme says it wants, by summer, to start on "phase two" of the work to build a neighbouring larger office site.
The first block is 32,000 square feet of office space and will provide enough room for up to 300 employees, while phase two would have 42,000 square feet, with space for up to 500.
Maxwell Craven, one of Derby Civic Society's vice-presidents, has used the group's newsletter to call the completed first building "a harsh 1960s-expression machine derivative".
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Mr Craven added that the "scheme was far too large for its position in such a sensitive (heritage) conservation area".
He also queried whether the building would be "fully let".
But John Needleman, of Jensco Properties, which is managing the project on behalf of developer Lowbridge, said two firms were interested in taking up the space and that other businesses had enquired about part-letting.
He said confidence in the success of the first block had lead to the developer wanting to make a revised detailed planning application for phase two to the city council by April.
The revision is needed because some of the space for phase two had been taken up by an external car park for the first.
Mr Needleman said: "We would like to have it built by June 2014. We are very positive about Derby and very positive about the city council which is forward thinking and forward looking."
Lowbridge was granted an undisclosed amount of cash for the first block from the city council's £10 million Regeneration Fund, set up to stimulate city centre office developments. Mr Needleman said Jensco would look for help with phase two.
In response to Mr Craven's comment, Mr Needleman said 98% of the people who had spoken to him about the development "absolutely adore it".
He said: "It's a building you would typically see in London, Manchester or Birmingham. We are outside of the nearby conservation area but I think the building enhances it with a pleasing contrast."
Friar Gate Square is a rarity in the current financial climate as it is being built speculatively, meaning a tenant was not lined up to occupy the development before building work began.
Weakened business confidence has meant that fewer firms are relocating and the spectre of paying rates on empty commercial buildings, has deterred developers from doing this.