Q4: Carter Jonas senses a shift
Date of Article
Oct 17 2012

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11 October 2012 , The nature of enquiries and the tempering of expectations by businesses looking for property in the Cambridge area means agency Carter Jonas is sensing a shift in mood in the market for the remainder of the year and into early 2013.

But, cautions partner Will Mooney who, with Ben Oughton, is joint head of Carter Jonas commercial agency and professional services in the eastern region, any optimism shouldn't be overplayed given the ongoing backdrop of lack of finance from the lending institutions.

In what Carter Jonas positions as its 'half-term report' during the final quarter of the year, its commercial division's Cambridge partners are sensing that the phase where businesses are downsizing on accommodation is just about over.

This notion of a shift in sentiment is reinforced by the larger companies and corporates coming to terms with the notion of pre-letting to secure the best space.

Looking at current enquiries locally, approximately two thirds are approaches looking for more space and one third releasing space – a marked shift from the position of the last three years, notes Carter Jonas.

Large scale enquiries in and around Cambridge – those looking for 20,000 to 60,000 sq ft – and with which Carter Jonas is in discussion, number five, at present, and range from companies looking for new premises to those seeking additional space. 

Recent local transactions of notable scale by Carter Jonas and which are concluding this quarter include the Alzheimer's Society who will be leaving premises in Fulbourn to move to a new regional headquarters of 5,500 sq ft at Granta Park.

Also, Illumina, the genetics analysis company at Chesterford Research Park, is taking an additional 13,000 sq ft of accommodation in Building 400 - also known as Pembroke House and the former home of the UK R&D branch of Japanese biopharmaceutical corporate, Sosei, which has been represented by Carter Jonas.

The majority of secondhand, older style property available, currently, is not the best quality, meaning many of the largest of the enquiries will have to be fulfilled with pre-lets at developments coming through the pipeline at Haverhill Research Park, Cambourne Business Park and Phase 6 at the Cambridge Science Park  - all three on which Carter Jonas is an active agent.

While the Carter Jonas duo is cheered  hat the pre-letting message does appear to be getting through when it comes occupiers seeking high-end space in Cambridge – there's in excess of four million sq ft in the pipeline at varying stages of consent -  a disconnect remains between developers' and financiers' judgment of appetites.

Will Mooney explains: "Developers are judging the market to be strong enough but the terms of accessing development finance, for those who can get access, are a deterrent."

"On the upside this quarter, deals are concluding now which give a welcome sense of movement in the market and from which we all take comfort after the doldrums which have characterised the decade so far."

"Additionally, rents are solidifying and are starting to move upwards."

"So Q4's half-term report card for Cambridge is: Attitude improved but, on the core subjects, could still do better."