The biggest property deal in Newcastle for decades

November 1, 2017

Specialist property writer Chris Dobson looks at the evolution and potential of one of Newcastle’s most exciting developments, Science Centre

The late summer planning permission for the first of two 100,000 sq ft phases of Legal & General’s office investment in Newcastle’s Science Central development, Gallowgate, was a significant step forward for the capital of the North East.

It takes a drive around the boundary of the Science Central site and a walk through the development to get a true measure of the scale of what is going on at this 24-acre site where the emphasis is on science and technology.

This ‘innovation hub’ is on the former Scottish & Newcastle Breweries’ site, of which only the regional headquarters building remains as the Sandman hotel.

Located in Newcastle’s city centre, the numbers associated with Science Central are impressive – to generate over 4000 jobs, create 500,000 sq ft of office space and build 450 new homes.

Just over a year ago it was announced that Legal & General would become a long-term investment partner on the £350 million flagship site, alongside Newcastle City Council and Newcastle University.

Pat Ritchie, chief executive of Newcastle City Council, says: “Newcastle Science Central is our flagship development and is fast becoming a flourishing innovation hub in the heart of the city. Developments are progressing apace as new structures rise from the ground and construction of new commercial and academic facilities continue on site.

“This is all made possible through our committed partnership with Newcastle University and Legal & General as a long-term investment partner, and we look forward to strengthening our private public partnership for decades to come.”

The first office building is FaulknerBrown-designed ‘The Core’, 27,000 sq ft of excellent office space for start-ups and SMEs. It joins the Urban Sciences building that has just opened and The Key. Under construction is the Newcastle Laboratory building and proposed is the Learning and Teaching Centre, the National Innovations Centres for Data and Ageing and the first eight-storey L&G building, which will be on site before the year end.

In terms of commercial property specifics, Tony Wordsworth, director, GVA, National Markets – Offices, and joint agent with Cushman & Wakefield, says Legal & General’s investment “is the biggest property deal in Newcastle for decades and represents a major vote of confidence in the city from the private sector.”

He adds: “There has been a sustained focus on developing Newcastle’s reputation as having a cutting-edge proposition in the fields of science and technology. The future development at Science Central will build on what has already been delivered, including The Key, a landmark iconic building with a lightweight triple skin structure and dynamic, innovative interior research labs.

“The university’s £58 million Urban Sciences Building is now open and, in addition, design work is underway for a Learning and Teaching Centre and Newcastle Laboratory, which will offer high-quality incubation and grow-on accommodation specifically geared to science-based commercial activities.”

Looking at a wider picture of Newcastle, Tony says: “Culture-led regeneration has not only improved the image of the city and the quality of its places; it is a significant contributor to the economy through tourism and employment. The ambition is for this to continue and key future sites such as East Pilgrim Street will integrate and build on existing cultural assets to create new ‘cultural hubs’.”

Regeneration and comprehensive redevelopment are not new to Newcastle.

“Over the past 20 years it has seen significant regeneration success, following a city-wide strategy linking economic development, urban renaissance and the retention and growth of population within the city,” says Tony.

“The regeneration of Grainger Town in many ways initiated the recovery from a physical perspective, exemplifying heritage-led regeneration utilising public and private sector investment. Its comprehensive approach attracted office, retail, housing and leisure uses and acted as a stimulus for further investment and redevelopment in the city.

“Further, the visionary renewal of the Quaysides has revitalised a historic part of the city and been prominent in building a reputation for Newcastle as a cultural destination. Using culture as a catalyst for change has been an important and visionary part of Newcastle’s story.”

There is strong demand in Newcastle for Grade A office space, but a lack of investors willing to speculatively build is creating a supply/demand imbalance.

Newcastle Science Central is a prime example of what can be accomplished through innovative and collaborative working, and is testament to the hard work and commitment of the partnership between Legal & General, Newcastle City Council and Newcastle University.

This partnership arrangement is one of the mechanisms that the council and partners have adopted to unblock this supply/demand issue which will create jobs and boost the local economy.

Ryder Architecture has designed the first Legal & General building which will provide contemporary workspace for over 1200 people in the science, technology and knowledge-based sectors.

The building is designed to British Council for Office standards with an occupancy ratio of one person per eight sq m net of office space and is designed to BREEAM Excellent standard with an EPC rating of A.

The design will benefit from a generous double-height shared reception and touchdown space, along with a café. Through expressing the structure of the building and the rigour of the function within, Ryder Architecture has achieved a well-articulated architectural expression which has a high degree of transparency. Vehicular access, disabled parking and drop-off points are incorporated into the adjacent public realm.

Colour and tone have been introduced to give the building richness and depth – the earthy copper tone of the building catches the sunlight, changing its look and feel throughout the day and providing a dramatic addition to the skyline of Newcastle.

Jonathan Seebacher, architectural director at Ryder Architecture, says: “Ryder is working closely with Legal & General and Newcastle City Council to ensure we create a building of European standing, befitting the region’s Northern Powerhouse aspirations. The design and specification represents a significant step change in workplace provision for the city, setting an outstanding new benchmark in the commercial office market.”

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