Benefiting from sustained regeneration and the imminent opening of the Elizabeth Line, Reading has seen a marked upgrade in stock notably within the town centre.
The regeneration of Reading was underway several years before royal assent was granted for the Elizabeth Line in 2008. Now the new rail route has heightened activity and been a catalyst for business generation.
The most obvious change is Reading Station, which was the subject of a £850m comprehensive redevelopment completed in 2015. This will serve the anticipated growth in travel, with annual passenger numbers using the station expected to increase from 20 million today to 30 million by 2030.
Elizabeth Line services begin full operation in December 2019. In addition, final consultation on the proposed Western Rail Link to Heathrow (WRATH) is due in 2018. If progressed, this could see four direct trains an hour run from Reading into Heathrow. Completion is expected in 2024.
Long since considered a technology hub, Reading continues to have a strong affinity with innovation and research.
Over the past 10 years, ‘tech’ firms have accounted for 33% of office take-up, with the town’s business parks satisfying two thirds of these requirements. Reading now has the highest density of technology focussed companies in the UK. Nonetheless, redevelopment of the town centre, particularly around the train station, has bolstered interest from major corporate occupiers and firms from business services.
The rise in co-working and space as a service in particular is very much in evidence. Total space acquired by flexible office providers accounted for 37% of office take-up in 2017, this being the highest amount of any location in the South East office market.
Office development has complimented the ongoing regeneration of Reading. Between 2015 and 2017, 1.2 million sq ft of ‘ground up’ and refurbished office schemes were delivered to market. Notably, 71% of developed space has been in town centre locations, a step change in development focus which has typically centred on Reading’s key office parks.
With major schemes such as the 184,000 sq ft Thames Tower and the 185,000 sq ft 2 Forbury Place completed in 2017, ongoing office development work has shrunk to less than 20,000 sq ft. Further ahead, the potential pipeline is extensive at 1.5 sq ft earmarked for the next five years.
Whilst the Elizabeth Line continues to be a lure for a diversifying range of occupiers, the ongoing evolution of Reading as a technology cluster remains the mainstay of activity. The attraction of a diverse graduate population, excellent retail and leisure amenities, plus a broad range of residential accommodation is key to the success of the office sector.
Reading is growing in stature rapidly and, alongside connectivity and business space work, there is an impetus towards regeneration of local attractions including the abbey ruins and the Thames Lido. A rent of £38.00 per sq ft was achieved in Thames Tower in Q1 2018. Projections suggest this will rise to £42.00 per sq ft by 2021.