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Will Lewis – director of OBI Property – on why amenities matter

Neighbours

In the words of a popular Australian soap opera, everybody needs good neighbours. As property professionals we’re used to using words like “amenities.” It’s a bit of jargon really – who else outside of our world uses the word? It’s like “adjudged” or “aplomb” in football commentaries. Of course we all know what amenities are: shops and services, gyms, cafes, restaurants and pubs. Some of it comes under essentials: dry cleaning, Timpson’s, those little errands that people like to get out of the way at lunchtimes so the weekend can be freed up. Some of it’s more a matter of choice, of giving yourself a treat – leisure options.

How important are these things when people are deciding where to locate an office (if you’re in charge) or for where to work? Within a given city, the things near Office A and the things near Office B probably aren’t a deal breaker, but having some decent stuff on your doorstep might just make the difference when the pros and cons are being tallied up. As a business, we are really passionate about interiors and quality workspace, but you can always play about with that stuff; interior design, get new furniture & tweak it so that it feels like home. You can’t do that with what’s outside the walls.

It’s always being said that to attract and retain the best staff, companies have got to be in places where bright people want to work. This usually means a certain city over others, but can it be broken down within a city – does the part of town you’re in make a difference? We think it can and most of the clients we work with think similarly as being near the things people value is important, and they appreciate it.

If you’ve got a great location near brilliant food and drink outlets and shops, make a selling point of it. “You do know the restaurant across the road’s just won a major award, don’t you?” “Of course, this pub’s one of the best kept secrets in town, great ales, great atmosphere”.

Restaurants, pubs and shops won’t top the list for the ultimate decision-makers, but they’ll certainly make working-life more interesting for people once they’re in.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen large new schemes in most regional cities battle for the right standard and blend of leisure occupiers that will be a selling point for companies looking at office space. It’s not easy to do, and it can take a few years, but the smart property people and the smart city councils realise it’s all about people, and they’ll back these areas.

Manchester’s Spinningfields is now a proven leisure destination, thanks in large part to a mutually beneficial relationship between developer Allied London and restaurateur Tim Bacon. However, it took time over the years to invest in and put on ‘pop-up’ events (the ice rink, the Screenfields summer film shows) to make it a vibrant part of the city. Bristol’s Temple Quarter and Leeds Dock are just two going down the same route – events, markets, street food.

Create a buzz and make it somewhere people want to be. We should never lose sight of the fact that property is not about the buildings, really, but people.

www.obiproperty.co.uk

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