Plans submitted for first office space in Cambridge’s The Grafton

Cambridge has one of the strongest and fastest growing economies in the UK. Demand for office space in the city has risen in recent years, with the sector benefiting from investment in the Cambridge Innovation Capital and an influx of life science and tech start-ups.

The Grafton was opened in 1983 and comprises nearly 500,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space. It is located on the eastern edge of Cambridge and is one of three main shopping centres in the city. Legal & General acquired The Grafton in 2015 and have since delivered a comprehensive refurbishment.

Tom Williams, fund manager at Legal & General said: “Repurposing excess retail space into alternative uses that change the rhythm of the asset is at the heart of the business plan. We are excited to be able to meet the rising demand for offices and champion retail at the same time.

“As retail continues to evolve, the new unit at The Grafton will help encourage footfall by putting potential customers on retailers’ doorsteps five days a week, whilst giving Cambridge-based businesses a functional, well-designed space to grow.”

The offices will be fully fitted out by x+why with an industrious, cool and comfortable atmosphere created through the combination of natural materials (timber, plywood, cork, felt) and harder, industrial materials such as concrete, metal, resin or vinyl. The front and back of the unit will be linked with a wide avenue to bring in natural light from a roof window in the main shopping concourse, and new picture windows proposed for the rear façade.

Above the offices and co-working spaces x+why are planning The Galleries, which has been designed by local architects NRAP, and will offer the small to medium sized member businesses breakout areas with event spaces, games room, bar and quiet/meditation zones. Furthermore, The Galleries will be open to the public and welcome passers-by as well as ‘work near home’ agile workers, with flexible memberships that allow them to be part of the inspiring, community environment.
Rupert Dean, Co-Founder and CEO of x+why said: “We’re thrilled to be designing a flexible, serviced space that will cater to the needs of a variety of organisations and entrepreneurs and the ever-changing world of work. As Cambridge continues to attract new and established businesses and workers travel less, we’re excited to play our part in meeting the demand for new workspace. Repurposing The Grafton unit is not without its challenges, but we are determined to limit our environmental impact by making use of a space that already exists.

“This project will show that we don’t always need to construct new offices – we can, and should, take purpose-built units and make them function for new uses that benefit surrounding businesses and workers themselves by placing them amongst amenities that promote a healthy work/life balance and encourages less overall travel. What is more, at The Grafton, in addition to the workspaces there will be breakout areas to the scale and quality that one would expect in Google or Amazon’s headquarters but available to even the smallest start-up businesses.”