Will Parry, Asset Management Executive at office developers Helical, talks setting a new standard for working spaces across Manchester
Manchester is changing: we’re seeing buildings rising from the ground and new areas of the city emerging faster than ever before. One company that’s part of Manchester’s rapid rise is office investors and developers, Helical. Over the last five years, Helical have invested over £120 million in Manchester, and the company’s Asset Management Executive for Manchester, Will Parry, is on a mission to help regenerate our city through the activation of real estate.
Many businesses in Manchester’s traditional fringe locations, like the Northern Quarter and Ancoats, have come to expect lower standards of office space. Will says, ‘The real problem is the blight of buildings staying derelict for too long and no one stepping in’. Drab décor and overcrowding are common problems that many businesses have just put up with. ‘The only way we can improve Manchester,’ Will explains, ‘is by making significant investments into buildings and managing them properly’. As the city’s traditional fringe locations become the new core, higher standards of office space are expected there and Helical is proud to be delivering this.
Since 2015, Helical has acquired five properties across Manchester as part of their commitment to transforming working spaces throughout our city. Will and the Helical team know that Manchester needs and, more importantly, deserves working spaces that are fit for purpose but that also inspire. Their approach is a simple but effective one. Will explains ‘The acid test for Helical is looking at everything that we buy and asking whether we would work in it ourselves’. It’s about giving Manchester’s people the workspace they need so they can get on with what they do best.
You won’t see Helical roll out the same approach across the city – in fact, at first glance, you might not spot when a building belongs to Helical at all. This is because their goal isn’t to splash their branding across a space, instead Will says that ‘every one of Helical’s buildings is designed on its own merits.’ Helical know that we don’t want to be stuck at our desks all day, so they provide booths for small meetings and break out spaces where you can brainstorm, all within close proximity to coffee shops, restaurants and transport links. They strive to enhance their buildings and embrace the areas they belong to with the needs of our working lives in mind. Taking their property 35 Dale Street as an example, Will says ‘I’m next door to Cottonopolis if I want food or a beer. I’m nearby Piccadilly Gardens if I want to get the tram home, or Piccadilly station if I’m getting the train to London. There’s Idle Hands downstairs to go to for a coffee – the owners Dave and Lucy did loads of pop-ups and then found a home here and their success is brilliant.’
35 Dale St.
“The only way we can improve Manchester is by making significant investments into buildings and managing them properly.”
It’s not just about retaining their occupiers but also helping them and the city to thrive. Will explains ‘The hardest thing to do in this market is to recruit good people’. By consistently delivering spaces where people want to work, Helical help their occupiers to attract top talent when making new hires. More than the occupiers benefitting from happier staff, Helical’s injection of investment and introduction of proper management kicks off a chain reaction of improvements including a more attractive, but crucially safer, environment for us to live and work in.
Churchgate & Lee
Will and the Helical team are aiming to champion the regeneration of our workspaces citywide. Will says, ‘Four years ago, when I first joined Helical, it was very hard to get people to invest in Manchester, but today there’s a huge amount of occupiers which are coming out of London and moving to Manchester.’ Helical is seizing on this shift and acquiring properties in areas they think are about to boom. Will explains ‘I think the city is going to expand quicker than any of us realise – it’s about having the vision and confidence to know that’s about to happen’.
Time and time again, Helcial’s predictions for popular pockets of the city have been right. Helical acquired: the Grade II listed Churchgate & Lee on Oxford Street in 2014; then the Northern Quarter’s Grade II listed 35 Dale Street in 2015; followed by 31 Booth Street in 2016; and Grade II listed Fourways House in the Northern Quarter in 2018. Helical’s latest prediction to come to fruition is the 56,000 sqft Trinity building set across seven floors near Spinningfields. Will explains ‘Trinity is one of the first office buildings being delivered around Lincoln Square. This part of the city will link the traditional CBD to Spinningfields and with 125 Deansgate under construction and Dalton Place being let to WeWork, this area is destined to be a new and interesting part of the city for office occupiers’.
Churchgate & Lee Courtyard
For Helical, it’s not just about putting their stamp on a building, it’s about making a mark in Manchester. Will says ‘Five assets in, it feels like we’re starting to have an influence on the property scene in Manchester – and I still want to do more’. Following Will’s careful reading of our changing cityscape, Helical will ensure high-quality workspaces are ready and waiting to answer the demand they know is there, and continue to champion this new chapter in our city’s redevelopment.
Find out more at helical.co.uk