Amenities prove key to Green Park success
By Alan Bunce, News Editor
Rory Carson, 35, had originally studied theology before doing a masters in Land Management at Reading University. He became a surveyor at Knight Frank before going on to become associate director at PRUPIM (now M&G) where he had responsibility at Imperium, Apex Plaza and Green Park developments.
Now he is director at Green Park owner Oxford Properties.
He lives in Barnes in west London, working one or two days a week in the capital and the rest at Green Park. He said from the plush offices at 100 Longwater Avenue: “I prefer Reading to central London. I particularly like the greenery at Green Park.”
WHILE major deals at Green Park grab the headlines, some of the smaller ones are proving just as vital to the park’s development.
With PepsiCo’s 105,000 sq ft and Huawei’s growth since arriving two years ago, Rory Carson, director of park owner Oxford Properties, says one reason big employers choose it is the owner’s emphasis on amenities and events.
Italian streetfood, vendor, Go, has just signed to move into Lime Square alongside WH Smith, Asda Click & Collect, Zest brasserie, Nuffield Health Club, Green Park Day Nursery, The Mad House soft play and , ironically, Carson & Co estate agent, a business now owned by Countrywide but initially founded by Mr Carson’s father.
He said: “We are pleased with the level of amenities we have because that is becoming more important to people.”
And it was important to PepsiCo. The food and drinks giant had long considered relocation from Theale and Green Park offered both the road network and an appealing environment.
Mr Carson said: “PepsiCo will move 600 people here in August. We were able to demonstrate to them, through the established events and amenities here, the benefits that are gained in the recruitment and retention of staff.”
The events programme has included the Reading 10k, human table football, mini golf, an open water swim, a pancake race and the Reading Half Marathon, among the less sedate pursuits but there are also food markets, language classes, cycle surgeries and even a bat walk and talk.
The Reading Half-Marathon has grown thanks to its relocation to the park which brought many thousands to its 195 acres.
Mr Carson, who had been involved with the park’s management since 2005 said: “We thought ‘do we want 20,000 people to see how great the environment we’ve got here is?’ Then we thought, ‘yes we do’. It’s great to be playing a full part with the outside community.”
Breakfast meetings allow the tenants’ senior managers to network and the tenant mix helped Green Park withstand recession.
Mr Carson said: “A lot of our occupiers are in the technology sector and it was one of the first industries to recover globally. It started in Silicon Valley and those technology companies have done very well.
“The other sector which has done very well is pharmaceuticals. They are not recession proof but they are less affected by the downturn than most because of the long product cycles and demand for drugs does not change in recession.”
Green Park is among a varied portfolio of high end developments including prestigious London addresses, Canada-headquartered Oxford Properties owns in the UK, including a 50 per cent stake in The Leadenhall Building in London. Future intentions are for more joint ventures.
At Green Park Huawei and PepsiCo use two of eight buildings Cisco initially leased. The software giant only ever occupied three and has now consolidated into one. But for years its vacant buildings near the M4 suggested a half-empty park, although it was fully let, and Lime Square amenities were underused.
Now 6,000 work at Green Park, Lime Square is full and empty buildings are being updated.
The park was 94 per cent full when Oxford Properties bought it in November 2011 but that dropped to 47 per cent after Cisco’s surrenders. Two years on that figure is now 76 per cent and Mr Carson said the surrenders had been a big success. Lettings have been mostly small deals in multi-let buildings. There are now four being multi-let in addition to i2 and Regus services offices and the Connect TVT hub.
Mr Carson said: “We’ve done 55 lettings and lease renewals in the three years we’ve owned the park. Of those 55 only four have been over 10,000sq ft. We find the multi let buildings have gone very well.”
Huge scope remains for more development. The landlord has consent for another 850,000sq ft in three plots to the west. It’s unlikely to go ahead on spec, not least while 330,000sq ft remains unoccupied. Availability at Green Park starts at 286sq ft with barely an upper limit.
He added: “If someone wanted 800,000sq ft we could do it. And anything else in between.”