Sharpen your pencils: it’s 2016! – January 2016

It’s a new year and we’re on a real high. Just today we’ve just submitted our entry for Estates Gazette’s annual round up of deals transacted. We’ll have to be patient, as there’s a while to wait before rankings are announced. But for year ending December 2015 it’s a pretty impressive list, even by our standards!
We’ve a lot of very exciting new ventures in the pipeline too, although again we may have to exercise patience!
(In our industry you come to understand that things can happen slowly, which can be hard when we’re bursting with good news! One example being that Archant announced their move to Portman House just before Christmas. That was an exciting deal we were involved in and knew about months and months ago.)
But looking at the calendar for January, February and March, well, it’s going to be action packed. We’re looking at a lot of new instructions for Penn Commercial, and these are just the headline ones… In Ipswich, it’s looking like work will get underway in the new Westgate Quarter (the flattened site of the old Civic Centre, Ipswich Borough Council’s previous home). Then there are exciting new plans for the area around Ranelagh Road and Zest nightclub, close to where Ipswich railway station is being refurbished.
And just along the way, there are likely to be significant new developments at Harris Business Park on Hadleigh Road too. Elsewhere in the county, we’re involved in the sale or letting of Kirkley House, a modern two storey brick built office building with good car parking and in a prominent situation close to Lowestoft town centre.
And hot off the press, we’re going to be involved in the Deben Business Centre, just outside of Woodbridge.
And there’s news of a huge £2.4 million development site at Ardleigh, just to the north of Colchester that we’re being involved in. Just watch this space!
That’s on top of all the regular business that we’re involved in – the regular letting of properties right across the county on business parks, warehouse sites, and shopping areas. So we’re starting the year with a spring in our step and looking forward to working on ventures new and existing, and making exciting things happen for our clients.
And to all of our clients, suppliers and friends in the business, we wish you all a very happy, successful and prosperous New Year!

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New optimism for Suffolk county town October 2015

There’s a new optimism in Ipswich and not just in the retail and food sectors, where the town centre is seeing renewed interest in the Buttermarket and revamped Sailmakers sites.
There’s good news in that Jack Wills, trendy and upmarket clothes retailer, is to take the landmark – and much loved – site previously occupied by Croydons in the town centre.
It’s a more than welcome boost, following a lamentable number of shop closures and a flood of pound shops into the town.
This new optimism is evident in other sectors too.
With the complete letting of Three Rivers Business Park on Felixstowe Road, the owners of the site, Saint Vincent Holdings Ltd, are seeking planning permission to develop Phase 2.
SEKO Logistics and CF Social Work Ltd have joined Skanska, Direct Ferries, Itineris, Classic Medicare, Sheridan Blake, Simple Click Solutions and Drummond Developments on site.
Saint Vincent Holdings also owns the 18.5 acre Harris Business Park on Hadleigh Road where work is about to begin with Penn Commercial as sole agents.
Plot 1 will comprise 10 industrial starter units of 1,000 sq ft and Plot 2 will accommodate larger units up to 25,000 sq ft available leasehold or freehold with starting rents from £9 per sq ft pa exclusive.
The developers took a long term view on the site, but believe the time is right now and there will be a mix of office, industrial, warehouse and trade counters. Plots are offered on a design and build basis.
On the Ipswich waterfront, which has been a tale of mixed fortunes for some years, there are signs of real activity! Broken links between town centre and waterfront have been an issue for years.
Following the letting of Investec sites to Bears Bowling and Harpers Furniture, we’re had several enquiries about the nearby former silo site.
And there’s interest from national retailers in the 1.7 acre Merchant Quarter land, a joint venture with Equity Land Ltd for a mix of commercial and 53 private apartments with car parking.
There’s also interest in the derelict corner site closest to Stoke Bridge.
The new Ipswich Vision highlighted the need to develop this important area of the town and developments like these could be central to a very exciting change of direction for the town.
Elsewhere, a logistics company is looking for a 100,000 sq ft site for distribution, ideally in the form of a high bay warehouse, the kind of stock that is in very short supply.
Brisko Metals’ development on the former sugar beet site at Sproughton Road in Ipswich will comprise 12 new industrial/trade counter units with yards to let on new leases. They should be ready for occupation in autumn 2016, and we’re proud to have been appointed sole agents.

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Supply & demand: a property sellers’ market – June 2015

With interest rates continuing to be low – and set to remain that way for the foreseeable future – it’s difficult for both businesses and individuals to find ways to invest cash with favourable returns.
On the one hand it’s good if we’re shoppers seeking out bargains. And what’s not to like about prices remaining stable?
But if we’ve cash to invest, either as a business or as individuals, then our options are pretty limited.
Property has traditionally been a good investment – both commercial and domestic buy-to-let.
But now even that is proving hard to come by for many investors.
With everyone looking for the best opportunities, with pension funds and banks holding onto some very substantial property portfolios, there’s unmet demand.
In recent weeks we’ve sold a number of properties, not necessarily those at the more glamorous end of the market, with the greatest of ease. And we’ve buyers queued up for more.
Larger, more prestigious developments are equally in demand.
There’s a simple message here.
If you’ve got property to sell, then we’re in a good position to put you in touch with a buyer, one with ready cash and keen to snap up the opportunity.
And, of course, with such competition out there to buy, prices are holding up well.

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Making the most of good times – May 2015

The commercial market may well be turning round.
It’s better – much better! There’s a lot more demand for commercial property, but at the same time, there’s still quite a lot available. It’s a leftover from tougher times.
While properties are filling up, tenants are being very picky. They might have more money in their pockets, but gone through tough times they want to spend it wisely.
They’re unwilling to choose – or remain in – badly maintained or neglected sites.
It’s where professional property management comes into its own. It’s a growing side of our business – and it’s not surprising. Our own Paul Keen has grown a large portfolio of commercial properties and those under his care are really in demand.
To take one example, the failing Mansfield Park on Felixstowe Road in Ipswich, now rebranded as Three Rivers is now fully let with a waiting list. Only 18 months ago it was only 20 percent let… and the existing tenants weren’t happy to boot!
Paul’s recently taken on the management of a number of properties on behalf of a private company in Clacton in Essex, to add to a list of Ipswich, Woodbridge & Hadleigh properties already under his watchful eye.
He says: “There may be more potential tenants in the market, but it’s not a time to become complacent. Under professional property management, any landlords’ property becomes a much better proposition, no matter where it is.
“We’ve our own list of professional services and fully-vetted contractors that we can call upon, dealing with everything from maintenance to cleaning to landscaping. Like us, they share an attention to detail and that’s something that’s important to everyone – developers, vendors, landlords or investors.
“But in the end it all comes down to getting to grips with the issues that really matter: good communication and quick response to problems when they arise. That’s what really makes the difference and keeps tenants happy.
“And that’s good news for everyone.”

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And the EGI winner is…Penn Commercial March 2015

Hard work brings its reward.
It’s been eight years since we set up the business. They’ve been, by anybody’s reckoning, some pretty tough years. But persistence has paid off, as it usually does. And we’re delighted to be here at Fox’s Marina, fighting fit and still raring to go!
This year, we attained new heights, winning the accolade of Estates Gazette Most Active Agent for Suffolk.
It’s a very big deal for us… we’ve a relatively small team (several of whom have been with us since the start), a very streamlined operation and everybody has to pull their weight.
And just as good is recognition for our star performer, Paul Keen, who shared the top billing of “Most Active Dealmaker” an accolade won outright by our own Beverley Jacobs two years ago.
These annual awards are fiercely contested.
And while they measure how many transactions are completed, that’s only part of our story. In the last few years we’ve not only proved ourselves to local and national clients, but we’re increasingly involved in property management.
Late last year we played a major part in the sale of the former Sugar Beet site on Sproughton Road in Ipswich to the Borough Council, acting in conjunction with Jones Lang LaSalle.
And we’re all set up for another busy year in 2015 – and keeping fingers crossed that we hold that top spot!

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Filling a GAP on the Ipswich streets – January 2015

As yet another big name retailer (GAP) announces it’s to pull out of Ipswich town centre, it’s time that those with influence stopped and listened to what everyone else is thinking.
Positive news stories about Ipswich’s retail sector are like hen’s teeth. When there are announcements, it’s that another supermarket convenience store, another cheap clothing store or chain coffee shop is about to open.
It’s been apparent for some time that Ipswich is missing a trick. For a decade or more (and long before recession) dinner tables resounded to debates about the layout of the town (east/west axis, north/south axis), connections between waterfront and shopping streets, expensive car parking and the need for an attractive focal point.
And what do we get instead of real change? Gleeful announcements that Primark plans to expand or that Tesco moves into one of our more attractive buildings?
Will such changes encourage anyone to dig deep for overpriced car parking and/or ditch a trip to Norwich in favour of Ipswich?
With each year that passes there are fewer reasons for those with money in their pockets to visit Suffolk’s county town.
They take their hard earned cash to places with more vision and appeal – attractive towns and cities with a sense of pride and sense of identity. Locally earned salaries are all too often not being spent locally.
It’s time to get a grip on this sad decline. There are some pockets of gold – the waterfront and St Peter’s Street as just two examples – but we need people with vision to who want to see real change seizing the initiative.
My suggestions: slash business rates, cut car parking charges (who seriously wants to spend cash on parking to go into Ipswich when they can park at John Lewis for free?) and look beyond sweeping a few streets regularly as a solution!
The writing was very clearly on the wall when bigger retailers like Next, Glasswells, John Lewis and Halfords all chose out of town sites. It’s only going to get worse as Martlesham Heath sees the opening of TK Maxx and Home Sense.
Is anyone listening?

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Chilly prospects for non-compliant landlords – November 2014

Throughout an exceptionally mild October, while the usual hysterical pundits were suggesting the harshest winter in 100 years, scare stories were emerging of the possibility of the lights going out this winter.
While in domestic terms that’s worry enough – I like my home comforts as much as the next person – all those who own commercial property have even more reason to be concerned.
Because there are some very real – and worrying – issues here. And they were top of the agenda at the recent Estates Gazette conference in London at the end of the month.
Margins between energy demand and generation are very significantly diminished. And this is likely to mean that there’ll be little mercy for those who don’t meet the terms of the The Energy Act 2011 and 2012 Energy White Paper.
They gave commercial property landlords and owners until April 2018 to bring their properties up to a higher standard of energy conservation.
And time is ticking away. £29bn is the estimated cost of getting all those “substandard” 200,000 commercial properties (an estimated 16% of total stock) in England and Wales up to the required standard.
Those that don’t achieve an EPC rating of at least E could become illegal.
There’s a long way to go and not too many signs as yet that the industry is taking this as seriously as it should.
April 2018 is just three and a half years away.

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Imminent shortage of industrial property – October 2014

Suffolk is in urgent need of more industrial and warehouse accommodation.
Lack of stock is in danger of blighting future growth. And we all know that the major banks are still reluctant to lend on speculative developments, as they still hold a lot of distressed assets.
There are lots of plans on the table for residential development. But there’s not much land being allocated and property being built speculatively for employment purposes.
As letting agent for the 10 acre Harris Business Park on Hadleigh Road in Ipswich, which is now being levelled and remediated, we’ve seen for ourselves an encouraging level of interest. We anticipate both freehold and leasehold disposals and interest from local and regional companies.
The developers, Peter Colby Commercials, are seizing the initiative and planning to speculatively build a 50,000 sq ft industrial building, ready for late 2015.
But that’s only one development! We need so much more…
Some of the demand is from growing or relocating companies, and there’s a lot of interest from the trade counter sector, like builders’ merchants, but some is from investors. The London market and some regional hotspots, such as Cambridge, are saturated and they are looking elsewhere.
The fact that we’ve Felixstowe on our doorstep, there’s an upturn in the economy and growing demand from logistics companies, means there’s a lot going on in east Suffolk.
There are some encouraging signs…
In Felixstowe, Uniserve has planning permission for 500,000 sq ft of 130ft high-bay warehousing plus office accommodation on a 27 acre site. When complete next year, it could handle more than 200 containers/vehicles a day and have capacity for nearly 300,000 pallets.
But the major development sites that remain in Ipswich are largely spoken for. Ransomes Europark is close to capacity with only a few acres remaining.
There are also plans for Crown Commercial Park in Stowmarket, which will add to available stock, but work hasn’t yet begun and the demand is here now.
Peter Colby Commercials have further plans to develop Lion Barn in Needham Market with freehold serviced sites from one acre upwards. Sites like those, with easy access to the A14 are always going to be much in demand.
It’s frustrating to see all that demand out there, and so little in the pipeline to satisfy it. We have so much interest and can gain so much as a county.

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Century House & Sun Building, Princes St, Ipswich – September 2014

One of the most significant and interesting recent office moves in Ipswich was the letting of Century House and acquisition of Sun Building, adjacent properties in Princes Street, by a firm of solicitors.
It follows a local trend for businesses to move into or within the town centre, where there is a stock of attractive and prestigious office accommodation, reflecting the town’s commercial background.
Both buildings were in poor condition, but the landlord of Century House was proactive in refurbishing both inside and out. Previously only one of the four floors was occupied, and that was on a short unexpired lease. Attwells, who employ 60 staff, signed a 6 year lease.
Sun Buildings is a Grade II listed building with period features, including wood panelling, fireplaces and leaded windows. It provides the new owners with mostly open plan accommodation, ranged over four floors, plus basement.
Penn Commercial acted on behalf of Attwells in the acquisition of Sun Buildings and on behalf of the lessor on Century House.
A further 50,000 sq ft is still available to let in the same area.

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Penn Commercial warns of imminent shortage of industrial property – September 2014

Suffolk is in urgent need of more industrial and warehouse accommodation, says Vanessa Penn of Penn Commercial.
The local commercial property agent says lack of stock is in danger of blighting future growth. The major banks are still reluctant to lend on speculative developments, as they still hold a lot of distressed assets.
“There are lots of plans on the table for residential development,” she says. “But there’s not much land being allocated and property being built speculatively for employment purposes.”
Miss Penn, whose company is the letting agent for Harris Business Park on Hadleigh Road in Ipswich, says interest in the 10 acre site, which is now being levelled and remediated, is very encouraging. She anticipates both freehold and leasehold disposals and interest from local and regional companies.
She said: “The developers, Peter Colby Commercials, are seizing the initiative and planning to speculatively build a 50,000 sq ft industrial building, ready for late 2015.
“It’s only a partial answer. Some of the local demand is from growing or relocating companies, and there’s a lot of interest from the trade counter sector, like builders’ merchants, but some is from investors. The London market and some regional hotspots, such as Cambridge, are saturated and they are looking elsewhere.
“The fact that we have Felixstowe on our doorstep, there’s an upturn in the economy and growing demand from logistics companies, means there’s a lot going on in east Suffolk.”
In Felixstowe, Uniserve has planning permission for 500,000 sq ft of 130ft high-bay warehousing plus office accommodation on a 27 acre site. When complete next year, it could handle more than 200 containers/vehicles a day and have capacity for nearly 300,000 pallets.
“But the major development sites that remain in Ipswich are largely spoken for. Ransomes Europark is close to capacity with only a few acres remaining,” she added.
“There are also plans for Crown Commercial Park in Stowmarket, which will add to available stock, but work hasn’t yet begun and the demand is here now.
“Peter Colby Commercials have further plans to develop Lion Barn in Needham Market with freehold serviced sites from one acre upwards. Sites like those, with easy access to the A14 are always going to be much in demand.
“It’s frustrating to see all that demand out there, and so little in the pipeline to satisfy it,” she said. “We have so much interest and can gain so much as a county.”

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