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M&G/Bell Hammer launch in Reading

January 2017 - Costar

M&G and Bell Hammer have formally brought to market for lease the latest phases of their Forbury Place development, a circa 600,000 sq ft urban estate being part speculatively developed in the centre of Reading. The current quoting rent of £37.50 per sq ft will be seen as further evidence of rebounding office space prices in key UK centres.

The estate, which lies close to Reading station, was launched to the South East office agency community on Wednesday and comprises:

  • No.1 Forbury Place – a 190,000 sq ft office development which M&G and Bell Hammer leased in its entirety to SSE on a new 15 year lease prior to practical completion last year in the biggest leasing deal across the Thames Valley for a decade. No.1 Forbury Place will be SSE’s first new Super hub in the UK and will accommodate up to 2,000 people.
  • No.2 Forbury Place – 190,000 sq ft. Following the success of No.1 the decision has been taken to start speculative construction of No.2 which will be a mirror image HQ building. The building will complete in summer 2017 but it is understood the M&G/Bell Hammer will seek a multi-tenant strategy.
  • No.3 Forbury Place – 220,000 sq ft. M&G Real Estate bought the building following the sale of Apex Plaza and it has now been rebranded and forms the third building across the Forbury Place estate. The upper floors have been comprehensively refurbished and there is approximately 88,000 sq ft of space currently available. The quoting rent is £37.50 per sq ft.

Aaron Pope – Head of Regional Office Asset Management at M&G Real Estate, said: “We have been investing in Reading for well over 50 years and are extremely proud of what we have created here at Forbury Place. We were the first to start speculative development in Reading this cycle and were delighted to let the whole of No.1 to SSE. We have had the unique opportunity to create a new town centre business district which we hope will continue to attract businesses from not only the Thames Valley but further afield.”

Joel Hawkins at Bell Hammer said: “No.1 & No.2 Forbury Place have been designed by Bell Hammer to provide Reading with an HQ development of the quality found in Central London. This strategy has paid off with SSE taking the whole of No.1 and we already have tenant interest in No.2 which suggests it will be part or fully let before it is completed in summer 2017.”

CBRE and Campbell Gordon advise M&G and Bell Hammer at Forbury Place.

SSE (Scottish and Southern Energy), advised by LSH, is understood to have paid around £33 per sq ft at No. 1 Forbury Place, a peak in the town this cycle, and quoting rents at No. 3 of £37.50 per sq ft point to how far market rents in Reading have progressed in the intervening months.

M&G bought the site in March 2012 from Scottish Widows Investment Partnership and subsequently agreed a lease surrender from Cable & Wireless on the existing building, Energis House. It obtained planning consent for a 380,000 sq ft redevelopment across two buildings in April of 2013.

The estate is designed by Aukett Fitzroy Robinson and was the first significant speculative office development commitment in the Reading office market post the downturn.