The Earley Buildings are set to introduce the sense of a vibrant, urban business community to the Thames Valley as part of the vision that their new owners, Spear Street Capital, has for the properties it invests in and develops.
Earley East and Earley West were previously known as TVP 1 and TVP2 on Thames Valley Park. Earley East had been home to Fujitsu since 1996 and having been empty for a few years, needed a full refurbishment. The Spear Street team recognised the potential to deliver something different and add some value to the business park as a whole. Earley West is a multi-let building with occupiers including Hewlett Packard, Baxter Storey, Jive Software and Jelf Group.
Jackie Bereiter, Spear Street associate explained: “Both spaces needed some improvements, which we like as it gives us the chance to make our own mark on a building and create a dynamic workplace experience. That’s something we always look for in an investment: we want to see an exciting marketplace combined with a physical space where we can add value.”
Reading and the Thames Valley ticks all the boxes for Spear Street. It already has a reputation for tech industries and is attracting new and different organisations due to its convenient transport links, which will be further improved by Crossrail. These are essential criterias that Spear Street seek in their properties.
“After being empty for a period, we knew that we needed to make a change fast and deliver something that really complemented everything on the park already, but introduced some fresh thinking too,” said Jackie Bereiter. “Earley West only required a refreshed but dynamic reception area and more of a light touch – as it is now almost completely let out, which is great. But Earley East was a much bigger proposition with lots of opportunities and will finish in early 2020.”
Spear Street brought in Area, one of Europe’s leading workplace design and fit-out specialists, to complete what is a full Cat A refurbishment of the Earley East building. The 30-week project is a considerable commitment for Spear Street: the former Fujitsu office and data centre will undergo a £11 million upgrade to provide a modern campus-style development for its tenants. The scope of works includes a full strip out back to the building’s shell and core before completing a fit-out of all three floors. The large car park will be significantly upgraded, and major landscaping works will be undertaken to the front exterior, including the construction of an exterior café.
A major centre piece for the project will be the double storey reception in Earley East which will incorporate a mezzanine lounge. This reflects the modern thinking Spear Street wanted from Area for the workplace as it will serve not just as a welcoming space, but doubles as a flexible working environment with different features and spaces for tenants.
Throughout the scheme, across both buildings, Spear Street has set high sustainability targets. Area has brought in a specialist sustainability consultant, Mathew Byway of Alphacello. His team has worked hard with Area and its suppliers to drive the project towards being carbon neutral, grouping deliveries, eliminating single use plastic and even going so far as to make sure only Fairtrade tea and coffee is available on site. When complete, the target is for the Earley Buildings to have an energy performance rating (EPC) of B and gain BREEAM ‘Very Good’ building status.
“Tenants and their employees expect a workplace to be low carbon, and the building has been designed for performance and efficiency” said Luke Hacking, senior director at CBRE. “Buildings of all types, but especially workplaces, need to support the health and wellness of everyone using them. And it is about the journey to work as well. So that’s why we have installed bike parking facilities, a large shower block and electric car charging too. The bottom line is that tenants demand a green working environment and we want to make the one we create as high performing as possible.”
But Earley East and West are more than just refurbished offices buildings with a sustainability focus. They are about creating a working environment that is a positive place to be where everyone is engaged and productive – and this includes a very strong emphasis on the wellbeing of everyone that uses or visits the whole Earley Building site. That, in turn, makes the concept of a campus crucial to the overall vision of the development.
Sion Davies from Area said: “The idea of a campus was central to the brief Spear Street gave our team. The objective is to allow the tenants of both buildings to come together and Jackie and her colleague Zack Resnick stressed that theywanted to see new amenities introduced that you might not see on an average business park. That means it’s not just about what happens on the inside. The campus will have seating and picnic tables – breakout areas on the outside of the workspace. Intrinsic to that is going to be the new café sitting within the transformed landscaped area at the front of the Earley East.”
Spear Street are talking to different catering providers with the goal to establish a café offer that complements the existing Benugo in Earley West, but that adds something extra. It has to be different.
“This new café isn’t just going to be for employees, their guests and occupiers of the Earley Buildings,” said Bereiter. “If we are going to establish a real campus feeling then the catering offer needs to serve everyone on the business park. That’s what we mean about adding value.”
Area and its team, alongside Paragon Building Consultancy (project managers) and QS, Pinnacle ESP (M&E services consultants), branding company Mammal, and Alphacello (sustainability consultants) are delivering more than a straightforward refurbishment of 85,000 square feet of commercial space.
They are following a brief from Spear Street that is setting a new standard for workplaces in the Thames Valley. Sitting in its own beautiful 80-acre landscaped park makes Thames Valley Park special, but now, with the fresh amenities introduced by Spear Street and designed by the Area team there will be a very different dynamic once the Earley Buildings are complete in Q1 2020.
Bereiter said, “It’s an exciting scheme for us, the first one for us in the UK after successful projects in Ireland and building on our property portfolio across the United States and Canada. What’s more, it is exactly what we hoped to start with: a project that creates a sense of community and will bring a new vibrancy to the whole area.”
For further information contact the agents acting for Spear Street Capital, CBRE and DTRE.