Tuesday, March 24, 2015

News: Evans in talks over £70m Rotherham office development

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The Evans Property Group is the private sector developer hoping to create 200,000 sq ft of office accommodation on Forge Island in Rotherham town centre.

In 2012, the council's cabinet confirmed the prominent site as the preferred location for a new town centre cinema and theatre and developers and operators were sought. In the short term, the council is operating the former home of the Rotherham Forge & Rolling Mills as a car park now that Tesco has moved across the town.

Council bosses have since confirmed that the Forge Island site is being earmarked for an ambitious plan to create a public sector hub, which could result in thousands of additional jobs in the town centre.

The project involves the construction of offices for the use by government departments vacating London and also includes car parking, pedestrian bridges, public realm, addressing site contamination and flood alleviation works. The work has been given a total investment figure of over £70m with £65m set to come via Evans.

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As part of Tesco's move, the council has an option to buy the Forge Island site for £1.5m by the end of 2015. Arrangements have been progressed for the strategic acquisition of the vacated site, which the council previously admitted could include a purchase and sale to a third party.

Rothbiz understands that a legal agreement has been drafted that would see Evans purchase the site from the Council in a back-to-back transaction following the Council's potential purchase from Tesco.

The development could support 4,400 new jobs of which 2,000 would be new to the city region.

Evans has already commissioned a market intelligence company to engage with potential public sector occupiers, with a target of securing agreement for leases on 75% of the space by the end of 2015.
Work could start on site in September 2016 with an initial target date of August 2018 for the whole development to be completed and occupation of the office building.

The office development on Forge Island is also expected to accelerate development on surrounding sites, many of which, such as the former abattoir site and properties along Corporation Street, are in Council ownership.

The council is proposing to take vacant possession of the Riverside Precinct, currently occupied by a number of retailers, so that it can be demolished in 2016. Tenants are already being assisted to locate elsewhere in the town centre.

Clearing the sites would enable the rebirth of the "deck of cards" proposal that included a 50 space undercroft car park and a significant scheme of environmental works and public realm improvements. The idea was for steps down to the river creating a cascading area of public realm at the upper Market Street level down to the weirside, opening up other council-owned development sites along the river.

Two pedestrian bridges linking Forge Island to both the revamped rail station and the core of the town centre are also included in the proposal and the council and Evans are seeking around £6m of pubic sector funding via the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership's investment fund for strategic infrastructure investment (SCRIF).

Leeds-based Evans was the developer behind Rotherham Council's 250,000 sq ft Riverside House building on the Guest & Chrimes site on the edge of the town centre. Bringing together staff from a number of locations, the £60m investment houses 2,600 employees at only 1,308 desks.

In 2010, Rotherham Council set aside £2m to acquire 10.85 acres at the Guest & Chrimes site from Evans that enabled Rotherham United to construct the £20m New York Stadium.

Evans website

Images: Tom Austen / Evans

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