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Commerce and Industry

The Journal For Business to Business Marketing

Business Centre boss says changing workspace trends can breathe life back into high streets

Freya Cross leading the debate at the annual conference of the Flexible Space Association.

One of the region’s leading business centres is ticking all the boxes for people seeking work, rest and play solutions on their doorstep in a post-Covid world.

Freya Cross, Business and Corporate Manager at The Deep, said the rest of Hull city centre is also well-placed to benefit from the trend towards a “live-work location” and a “lifestyle office”.

Freya said: “The message to landlords who feel as though they are lumbered with vacant units is that we can all work together to meet the needs of people who want to work, rest and play without having to travel very far. These were identified before the pandemic struck, and they have been brought into sharper focus during the last 18 months.

“Workspace in town and city centres is not a new concept; it is a growth industry. The challenge is to let people work in places where they want to be as opposed to where they need to be.”

Freya, who has worked in the flexible workspace sector for more than 30 years and opened The Deep Business Centre in 2000, is also the Chair of the Flexible Space Association (FlexSA) and led a debate on current trends at the organisation’s recent annual conference in London.

Delegates from across the UK discussed the impact of Covid on the world of work, the implications for the flexible workspace sector and the opportunity to reinvent the high street in Britain’s towns and cities.

Freya said: “Providing the opportunity to work closer to home can bring benefits for people and places. The combination of people wanting to be in certain buildings and locations and requiring particular products and services from their landlords can help bring the high streets of the future to Tier II cities.

“It should be clear to all that Covid has accelerated the decline of the traditional high street, and concern has been voiced that permitted development allowing conversion from retail to residential will aggravate that. 

“But people still need somewhere to eat, somewhere to go out in the evening, so not every retail unit is going to turn into apartments, and those shops and restaurants that remain are an essential part of a live-work location and a lifestyle office.

“The desire of shopping centres to reduce the amount of retail space brings a big opportunity for stakeholders to work together and then curate – rather than create – space for leisure, retail, office and living which works for 24 hours.”

Freya cited the examples of a new FlexSA member which offers serviced offices alongside its hotel, spa and golf club, and of pubs which during the pandemic have “morphed into digital hubs offering hot desk options”.

She said The Deep Business Centre offered something different from the outset when it opened in 2000 in a location with a housing development across the road and the city centre only yards away.

The regeneration of the Old Town and the Fruit Market since then has provided the cultural, leisure and residential opportunities that people are looking for when they are off duty – and all in a stunning riverside location.

Freya said: “Years ago we moved shopping centres and business centres out of town because land was cheap, but many of them are sterile and, as planning laws change, the high street is the perfect place to create in-demand workspace.

The industry is constantly evolving to reflect client expectations and economic trends. The thinking now is about creating space that’s in demand rather than creating space because you think you should. 

“We need to look at how we can adapt and re-purpose places. It’s a balancing act which helps to meet the rising demand from people who want to work locally, walk out of the door afterwards and be able to go somewhere and get a drink, meet family and friends and have some fun. Our clients have been able to do that since day one and that shows The Deep Business Centre really was ahead of its time.”

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