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TWO OFFICE ‘CATS’ TO CONSIDER

Cat A + is growing in popularity as the traditional office is evolving in response to occupier demand, says Ben Gillam.

Cats © Getty Images
Cats © Getty Images

04 March 2019 | Ben Gillam

 

Uncertainty has brought a shift in the way companies approach their real estate, with a demand for greater flexibility and enhanced customer service. This has led to the rapid growth of the serviced office model as well as the evolution of the way traditional workspace is leased and managed. 


Landlords need new ways to market their properties and one method is Cat A+, a new idea that creates a middle ground between Cat A and Cat B. 


What’s a Cat A fit-out? 

A Cat A fit-out is typically implemented for a landlord who wishes to market a blank canvas space to a broad range of prospective clients. 


Essentially, it is an empty space finished to an industrial standard, which is then usually transformed by an interior designer appointed by the tenant after the lease has been signed. 


A Cat B fit-out is a full refurbishment of an existing workplace, creating an environment that is ready for immediate occupation. 


And Cat A+? 

Cat A+, on the other hand, is the most comprehensive fit-out a landlord can provide. It creates a ‘plug-and-play’ space with full functionality, including data, fibre and cabling, and all that tenants need to do is add their brand stamp. These spaces can be designed to appeal to tenants large and small, corporate and creative. 


It is worth noting that most businesses in the UK are SMEs, and typically looking for around 10,000 square feet of space. This model makes it possible for small businesses and start-ups that might have struggled to fund their own refurbishment and whose other option would have been to share space in a co-working environment to move into their own fully finished and functioning space without the cost of a Cat B fit-out.


This is especially popular in London’s market, where rents continue to rise and the overheads of occupying premises are significant.


Flexible Cat A+ 

Since its conception, the Cat A+ model has been implemented on several projects in London to appeal to tenants who want the flexibility of a co-working office, but within their own private space. 


Fund manager Columbia Threadneedle Investments, one of our clients, has applied the Cat A+ concept across its portfolio, following a successful leasing of its Copthall Avenue property. 


The main benefits they’ve seen from the fit-out have been attracting tenants that are: 

  • Seeking greater independence; 
  • Looking to develop their identity as their businesses mature; and 
  • Wanting to transition from co-working and traditional serviced offices into their own space. 


This is what a Cat A+ turnkey solution provides. 


Investment up front 

Although Cat A+ requires more upfront investment from the investor, developer or landlord, this model eliminates the need for rent-free periods because the space is ready to go from day one. 


Another benefit of this approach for both parties is that, at the end of the tenancy, dilapidations becomes easier, cheaper and far less contentious. It is also less wasteful as there isn't a need to remove everything and return the space to a blank canvas. 


Following the speed of growth of co-working, traditional landlords are looking for new ways to market their properties, challenge the co-working phenomenon and meet tenants needs. Cat A + is a solution that meets these demands.


Ben Gillam is the founder of commercial property specialists The ThirdWay Group