The middle section of Queenstown Road is changing! Until now it’s been a light industrial cluster, but the explosion of development that has taken place around the power station, the arrival of a shiny new Zone 1 tube station, and the imminent arrival of Apple’s UK headquarters, mean that buildings that were once the low-rent home for storage, logistics and catering, are increasingly attractive to media, design and technology businesses.
And for those lucky enough to own buildings in the area, this means that they have a much wider range of tenants than they did before, as these buildings move from being hard-to-let niche-interest affairs to actually quite desirable. This probably explains why there are a dozen or so new office developments at various stages of construction around Battersea and Nine Elms, including some of what had originally been planned as flats in the power station development, but which are now set to become offices instead.
But these new tenants have high expectations, and are looking for workspaces that are up to the very latest standards. Take 220 Queenstown Road: this unusual pair of buildings right next to Queenstown Road station has been around since 1889, originally designed by architect Thomas Massa and built by Holloway Brothers as a factory and warehouse, and called Queens Road Works. The first occupiers were R.Z.Bloomfield & Co, who specialised in making caps for use in the army (and possibly also railway staff). The large building was the main factory, with the smaller next door used as administration offices.
Back in 1988 a rooftop extension was added, with a bridge that links them at the roof level (and whose interior decor has a distinctly distinctly ’80s’ feel). The building hasn’t had much spent on it since and it’s fair to say it needs a bit of updating – which is exactly what its owners (the Medical Research Council’s pension fund) now propose to do. Their plans will see the dilapidated glass rooftop floor removed, and replaced with a new top floor more in keeping with the rest of the building, as well as adding smaller sixth floor which includes plant rooms. A large extension will also be built at the back of the building, which is currently a bit of a mess as our photo below shows:
The extension will connect the two buildings, and increase the overall floor space quite a bit, which is an important part of the plans. Both buildings combined have an area of just 14,600 square feet, which to make matters worse is split in to lots of tiny and inefficient spaces which are not properly disabled accessible – we can see how the current building will have become harder and harder to let (the smaller one has been empty since the current owners bought it in 2016, the larger one is partly occupied). These plans will create some decent flexible and open floorspace that is workable for a modern office.
There will be a restoration of the heritage exterior parts of the buildings, as well as a comprehensive refit of the interior of the existing buildings, reflecting the industrial character of the building and bringing it up to the standard a new tenant will expect – an indicative illustration si shown below, and we can imagine the unusual shape of this landmark building and position right at the heart of all sorts of road and rail links could make quite an interesting workspace.
Another key change will be the entrance – which will move to the space between the two buildings, with a double height reception, with balconies above it, as shown below. This will make the building a lot more approachable, and is a clever way of linking the two buildings as a modern office without losing sight of their history as two structures. The target audience for the new office is small to medium size businesses, probably mostly in the technology, media and telecommunications sectors.
The floorplan below shows the ground floor layout, with a cafe space to the left of the new reception, and a co-working hub on the right. There’s a small light industrial workshop space at the rear of the ground floor (maybe designed to replace some of what will be otherwise lost in the conversion), with the upper levels more of a classic open plan office layout. The building has all of the reception space, showers, plant rooms, cycle parking, bin space and other stuff that a modern office needs – a real change from the current very dated setup! The developers are keen to make the whole thing sustainable, aiming for the updated building to meet the ‘Excellent’ standard for BREEAM sustainability, which would put it in the top 10% of new buildings.
These aren’t the first redevelopment plans for the building. In 2002 planning was approved for a six storey rear extension and three storey roof extension (but this was never built), and in 2015 plans were approved to convert it to flats (but this wasn’t taken forward either – which is just as well as this site is really more suitable for offices than flats). The latest plans are subject to planning permission, but as a sensitive updating (and fairly clear improvement to) a heritage office building we don’t expect this will face any particular planning issues – to see or comment on the plans, search for application 2021/3958 on the Wandsworth planning website.
But this is not the only office project on Ingate Place. Next door, Ingate Works is a recently completed new building, with 17,000 square feet of top quality office space over four floors. A real step up in quality over what went before, it is the first of a new breed of office building to actually complete.
The space is for rent at £49.50 per sq foot, which is well above the £35-40 per square foot that high quality ‘Grade A’ office space traditionally lets for in Battersea, but which remains an absolute bargain compared to the £70+ you can expect one stop down the railway line – and is hence pretty attractive to smaller firms wanting to be close to both the city centre and a large workforce, without spending a fortune. Ingate Works took a while to let amid the pandemic but a decent amount of the building is now ‘under offer’.
And that’s not all. In 2018 planning permission was approved for a 92,000 square foot ten-storey office building at 8-10 Ingate Place, pictured above – which will be built on what are currently a couple of warehouses, shown below.
The whole development has yet to start and is currently on sale for £13 million, with the sales notes pointing out that with each floor being an impressive 9,000 square feet, two south facing roof terraces, and being a five minute walk from a tube station and seven minutes from Apple’s new headquarters, it should be quite attractive to smaller businesses in the IT sector.
There’s a more to come too – as all these buildings are in the Battersea Design & Technology Quarter, a creative and technology hub which Wandsworth Council have designated that covers the whole of this area, essentially extending and increasing the density of the existing industrial area to accommodate more employment, in particular creative design and technology businesses that are likely to cluster around the power station and Nine Elms. As an example, the plans foresee a further six-storey building to be built at 7 Ingate Place (between Ingate Works and the railway), shown as a blue rectangle in the image below.
But these are all a bit of a sideshow compared to what lies further along Ingate Place. Because as anyone who’s taken a train past Queenstown Road knows, the showstopper is the huge curvy Safestore self storage building shown below. Originally built as a furniture depository by high-end furnishers Hamptons, it has an interesting past – so interesting that we’ll be writing a separate post all about the building in the near future! Its present is useful but not particularly exciting – being mainly a large self-storage base, and (in assorted sheds in the car park) a hub for a variety of delivery businesses and dark kitchens.
Tellingly, Safestore already know there’s demand for offices here: in addition to the storage options you’d expect, Safestore’s Battersea premises is one of relatively few Safestore sites that also operates as a business centre. The smaller building opposite the main depository (pictured below) offers office space on flexible leases. It’s a low-risk and fairly affordable way of hiring office space, with a straight all-inclusive monthly fee and no long lease terms, as well as conference room space and business support services, and (having run for over a decade, and housing dozens of local firms from upholsterers, cleaners and antiques traders to sushi makers and wine merchants) it seems to work.
But the huge increase in value of buildings round here means that the vast and elegant main structure – surrounded by various other buildings that were once Hamptons’ factory, and a lot of car parking – is becoming too valuable to be just used for storage. Safestore generally own the Freeholds or long leaseholds so will likely be pleased to be in control of this vast and increasingly strategic site. We understand that property consultants Houston Lawrence undertook some type of commercial viability study of the site for Safestore in 2018, and we’d hazard a guess that it is likely to see further expansion and development in the medium term. As yet, there are no development plans – but we’ll keep you posted. And in the meantime, we can expect Ingate Place to change quite dramatically as all these office developments start to take shape.