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Workspace of the week

De Beauvoir Block – a space that helps solve the growing demands from London’s creative industries

Benyon Estate’s De Beauvoir Block is bringing a whole new cross-section of the creative industry to De Beauvoir Town. The scheme totals 30,000 sq ft and provides light and airy workspaces that range in size from 300 sq ft to 2,500 sq ft. Central to the scheme is the private café, which gives occupants a relaxed, informal extra place to sit and work.

The development firm worked with Shoreditch architect Henley Halebrown to create the property which is almost fully let even though it only opened in July. The only spaces left are a few units offering up to 24 desks.

Benyon’s commercial manager Josh Summers talks to Kontor about plans for the scheme and growing demands from London’s creative industries.

What was your initial plan when you first started developing the property?
Specifically, the aim of De Beauvoir Block is to bring the creative industries together. Current tenants are immersed in industries such as fashion, PR, photography and so on, who were all looking for an attractive, well-priced workspace.

We were very conscious that we wanted this development to be commercial only rather than residential. Although there are amazing pubs, cafes and so on, De Beauvoir Town needed something to bring more people to the area. Few people have really heard of it yet so this is a way to make it more of a destination.

How did your plans evolve as the scheme grew?
Initially, there wasn’t a café/desk area in the plan. As we were carrying out development we realised that it was integral to have a central hub for tenants.

One main reason for this is because as we visited a lot of offices as research, we saw that people often used half their space to create a comfortable space to relax in and crammed their desks into the other half. We realised that if we offer a café for tenants then they can dedicate more of their own space to desks. It adds flexibility that people don’t get elsewhere.

Why did you decide to create a building with multiple workspaces rather than one large office?
We knew there was huge demand for this type of space, offices of varying sizes that accommodate growing businesses. We designed the building so we could offer larger offices of 2,500 sq ft, as well as units of 1,500-2000 sq ft, others of 1,000 – 1,500 sq ft and then 13 smaller units on the top floor of about 300 sq ft which are aimed at startups.

The whole model is designed so a tenant can take a desk, move to a smaller office and then grow into the larger spaces as they come available. It’s almost an entire self-contained offering for companies as they scale. The largest demand so far has been for spaces of 300 sq ft.

Why have current tenants chosen to locate here?
The main feedback we’ve had so far is that people think elsewhere in London they could pay twice as much for an office that just isn’t as well designed.

What other benefits are there to being in a managed workspace?
We have a shared meeting room which is proving very popular. Lots of people book it out for the day to entertain clients. Even if a business has a small office, they can take a client to the café then into a booked meeting space and generally sell themselves much more effectively than if they only had their own small, private office.

Do you believe buildings such as De Beauvoir Block are the future of London’s office market?
Absolutely. For example, we now see that having a café or space to relax is integral in a large office block. The idea has really taken off. We’re shying away from opening the café to the public to try to make a profit, as we want it to be a factor that appeals to tenants. There is enough buzz in De Beauvoir Town as new cafes and pubs open as it is.

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