Property Week: Series of major projects set to boost Durham Economy

Property Week's Adam Branson reports on the resurgence of residential and commercial development in the university city.


As anyone who has travelled up the East Coast Main Line knows, the view when you pull into Durham is to be treasured.

The university city’s beauty, not to mention its close proximity to Newcastle, is both a blessing and a curse. It is notoriously difficult to develop anything of scale in Durham city centre, be it commercial, retail or leisure. However, a series of projects is proving that it is possible – and should contribute enormously to both the city’s daytime and night-time economies.

The resurgence of development started in 2014 with the regeneration of Freemans Reach on the banks of the River Wear, where Arlington Real Estate, together with then development partner Carillion, created new offices for HM Passport Office and National Savings and Investments, thereby helping to retain more than 1,000 jobs in the city.

With the Passport Office and NS&I relocated, the path was clear for Arlington Real Estate and Richardson Capital to start on the development of the organisations’ former offices on the opposite bank of the river, known as Milburngate. Carillion was also a part of the consortium, but it sold its stake late last year as its financial difficulties mounted.

The £150m development – which will comprise 400 apartments, 150,000 sq ft of offices, a Premier Inn hotel and bars and restaurants – received the green light from the council in November 2016, allowing demolition works to begin, and construction is now under way on the leisure and residential elements.

Critically, Arlington was successful in attracting the Everyman Cinemas group to anchor the development, alongside restaurant chains such as Pitcher & Piano and Bar + Block.

Now attention is turning to the future office phases. Arlington and Richardson have planning permission for 240,000 sq ft – a huge amount of space for a city with an office market the size of Durham’s. However, Greg Davison, partner and head of office agency at Cushman & Wakefield, which acted for the Passport Office and NS&I on their moves, isn’t concerned.

“It is a lot, but it will be phased,” he says. “Our engagement at this stage is on the first speculative scheme, which will be around 50,000 sq ft. The aim is for it to be grade-A office space as you would find in Newcastle or Leeds. It will draw on Durham’s position in the centre of the region and its riverside setting. You’ve got everything...

– Read whole article in Property Week