Phil Dawes, managing director of D2 Real Estate, said Guernsey could take a leaf out of Jersey’s book when it comes to finding alternative uses for obsolete offices.
‘This requires the “buy in” from the States of Guernsey as it will be dependent on planning, as well as identifying suitable buildings, which is not necessarily straightforward in St Peter Port given many are listed and their configuration may not suit conversion,’ said Mr Dawes, whose business operates across both islands.
‘However, this initiative has been successful in Jersey and since a relaxation in planning policy circa 300,000sq. ft of obsolete office space – being 10% of total stock – has been converted to residential use.’
New, more environmentally sustainable office buildings had then been developed to absorb any tenant demand.
‘In other words, you create additional housing and at the same time improve the quality of the existing office stock, which is more environmentally friendly, a step in the right direction towards being carbon neutral,’ said Mr Dawes.
‘Given the surge in residential demand in Guernsey, this would seem a natural solution that has proven successful in nearby jurisdictions and the UK.’
He also welcomed commercial developments now under way in Guernsey, such as on the Admiral Park site, but stressed that it would increase office stock in the island only slightly.
‘As there has been little in the way of commercial development activity for over a decade, it is perhaps not surprising that new schemes are under way and if anything it shows real confidence in Guernsey’s commercial office market.
‘However, putting things in context, these development are only likely to increase the office stock by 2.5%-5% so we aren’t expecting a surge in the overall vacancy rate, particularly in the prime sector, where supply is naturally constrained.’
But occupiers would demand much more from their offices and expect ‘best in class’ amenities and sustainability to encourage wellbeing. ‘This, therefore should be a key focus when refurbishing or marketing empty space and developers need to be forward-thinking and creative.
‘Over the past year there have been some notable successes in Guernsey, where landlords have delivered contemporary workspaces in buildings that have been vacant for many years and been rewarded with them being pre-let, such as Windsor House [Lower Pollet], so demand is there for the right product.’