Communication specialist Bailie Group has completed the £1.3m transformation of the latest statement property added to its portfolio – Riverside House in the heart of Leeds city centre.
An extensive refurbishment of the three-storey building began back in February 2020, to breathe a new lease of life into the 11,000sqft waterside premises.
The COVID-19 lockdown soon put a stop to the rip out and M&E overhaul, when all works were suspended in March. However, having implemented safe working measures over the summer, Bailie Group was able to recommence the Cat A programme in readiness for a tenant to fit out the space and move in, this autumn.
“SimplyHealth had occupied Riverside House for approximately 25 years before we acquired it,” explained Bailie Group’s CEO Fergus Bailie. “The building therefore needed a complete re-work. We’ve taken everything out and started again. We wanted to create a completely blank canvas, which reflected the property’s industrial surroundings.
“Instead of installing a standard ceiling grid, for example, we’ve opened up the internal elevations and chosen vents with exposed services –that way the fittings tell a story rather than existing purely for functional reasons.”
The installation of the new HVAC and water systems was not without its challenges. Bailie Group had to use adjacent land over the weekend to make way for a vast crane that could lift the equipment in through the roof, given the restricted access caused by the canal and the new Mustard Wharf development.
But the effort has been worth it, elaborated Fergus, who still believes strongly in ‘the future of the office’ – certainly in Leeds – despite headlines pondering the evolving make-up of the workplace post-pandemic.
“We’ve all read about the evolving needs and wants of the UK workforce,” he said. “And I think COVID-19 has forced a change when it comes to the complete package – and flexibility – that organisations offer their staff. Some people will seek to remain at home if they can, whereas others are hungry to return to collaborate with their peers. Offices will therefore need to deliver far more in the eyes of employees.”
“Core to our strategy as a Group isn’t just investing in people and ideas that make a positive difference, but also properties that inspire,” continued Bailie Group’s Chief Operating Officer Philip Walter, who has led the transformation project. “Buildings aren’t simply storage facilities for people and furniture – they’re assets that help businesses grow and as such, have to be destinations in their own right for both colleagues and clients.”
“We already own The Bramery in Cheltenham and a warehouse facility in Antrim,” he added. “And when we first saw Riverside House we were blown away – by both its future potential, and location.
“It is four minutes’ walk from the station’s south-side terminal, for example, and – much like Leeds Dock before it – Canal Wharf feels like it’s really on the cusp of something exciting. That’s before we even think about the impact of HS2.”
158-year-old Bailie Group – formerly The Baird Group – recently hit the headlines when it announced the start of a £2m acquisition trail. The hunt for new businesses to join the Group, forms part of plans to boost turnover by £20m, to £65m, before the end of 2021.