In our latest article BF’s Graham Ricketts looks at Parkbury, a particularly bright spot on the current St Albans Industrial Market.
Starting life as The Bilton Estate, and later re-branded Parkbury, this post-war industrial estate was acquired and subsequently redeveloped by Slough Estates (now Segro) in 1999 following their takeover of Percy Bilton. The estate has proved consistently popular and has seen significant rental growth over the last couple of years, despite the uncertain economic conditions.
Developed in phases since the turn of the millennium, the estate totals some 337,000 sq. ft. arranged as 20 units, the largest of which, Unit 7, fronts directly onto the A5183 and extends to some 75,000 sq. ft. To those with an interest in reality TV, this unit previously formed the backdrop to the infamous taxi journey exit for the Apprentice fired each week by Alan Sugar. The connection being that the unit was purpose-built for Viglen, a company previously under the Lord Sugar’s control and under the Chairmanship of his right-hand man and combative interviewer, Claude Littner.
Now owned by Picton Property Income, the estate was acquired in early 2014 by way of an interesting property swap, with Picton acquiring it from Segro in exchange for a 416,000 sq. ft. distribution unit at Magna Park, occupied by Primark. No doubt a substantial amount of stamp duty was saved.
The estate is one of Picton’s largest assets and has proved to be an excellent and consistent performer. Units that have become vacant through natural turnover have only remained that way for a short period. New occupants have been attracted to the scheme and a number of existing tenants have taken additional units, always a sign of a popular and well-run estate.
Brasier Freeth has been involved with the estate for many years, advising the Landlord and ensuring available units are marketed quickly and effectively. In 2018 we completed two lettings, with units 3 and 4, each c7,000 sq. ft. achieving rents of £12.50 psf and a matter of weeks later, £12.75 psf. Using our regional connections we were able to attract tenants from outside of St Albans within a relatively short period of time ensuring maximum return on our client’s property., Later that year the tenant of Unit 5 chose not to renew, deciding that the unit was too large. Terms were swiftly agreed for a new letting early in 2019 to local natural cosmetics manufacturer, Good Ventures. A healthy rent of £13.50 psf was achieved.
Early 2019 also saw the tenant of Units 9 and 12 go into administration, something that had been predicted, but once again we were able to act quickly and terms were rapidly agreed for Unit 9 to be leased to an existing tenant at a rent close to £14.00 psf. Unit 12 has also been placed under offer to an international conglomerate at what will be a rental high for the estate and arguably for the St Albans market for a non-trade counter unit.
Prior to this series of transactions, the most recent lettings involved Units 18 and 19, each c7,000 sq. ft., both of which were leased in early 2017 at rents of £10.25 psf. In comparison with recent rents achieved this reflects demonstrable rental growth of almost 40% in just over 2 years.
Secret to Success
So, what is the secret of Parkbury’s success?
Undoubtedly the lack of good quality modern stock locally is a major factor and the limited new development taking place will only serve to perpetuate this situation. Of equal importance, is a Landlord keen to proactively engage with tenants new and old alike ensuring that the offering is fit for the modern market. Corners have not been cut on the refurbishments of the units and our client understands that presentation is key.
In the current quite challenging times, these factors will become increasingly significant. Having an experienced agent on board who not only understands the market but equally what tenants require and in some cases demand, is crucial.
For further information on Parkbury or the office and industrial market in St Albans please contact BF’s Graham Ricketts who will be happy to share his local expertise.
About the Author:
Graham Ricketts is a Partner at Brasier Freeth and has over 30 years’ experience of the Hertfordshire Office and Industrial Markets. He is a popular sounding board with both our clients and fellow commercial agents who seek expert advice and local market knowledge.