A PLANNED second 14-storey tower block for the long-awaited Friargate ‘business district’ development next to Coventry station is still yet to secure a tenant.
A Coventry City Council progress report on the scheme – for the last decade said to have the potential to create 15,000 jobs – states: “Discussions with RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) pre-let of building 2 on-going.
“At present discussions are ongoing with the RICS and potential other occupiers to build up the viability to commence on building no 2.”
We reported in March this year the council told us the second block was being “constructed speculatively” without a tenant.
It now appears spades in the ground could at least partly depend on the protracted negotiations with potential tenants being successful, according to the progress report to go before councillors on the business, economy and enterprise scrutiny board on Wednesday (November 2).
It is three years since it was first reported RICS were interested in becoming the first private sector tenant for the planned 37-acre scheme of up to 25 buildings.
The council itself announced in 2013 it would step in to “kickstart” the struggling scheme by becoming its first occupier, moving its city centre staff into the first 13-storey tower block, which is now a feature of the city’s skyline in unfinished form.
The update report to councillors states it is expected to be completed by “mid-2017”.
Leading council figures in 2013 spoke of the council’s move as being a “honey pot” that would attract more private sector companies to the city.
RICS is already in Coventry, so its relocation to Friargate would not strictly be attracting the long sought-after inward investment – or money coming into the city – which the scheme was designed for.
Planning permission has been granted for the second office block, and the site has been cleared, including with the demolition of the old Station Tower in January.
The progress report also states: “Further discussions with further office occupiers [and hotel operators] are underway.”
It adds there are also ongoing discussions to secure a £50million budget from the West Midlands Combined Authority to allow for the development of buildings 2 and 3 to be sped up, or “expedited”.
Infrastructure work including radical alterations to the adjacent ring road junction have also been completed.
Council leader George Duggins came to power in a leadership coup in May this year, replacing Ann Lucas, and immediately announced there would be review of the Friargate scheme.
He told the Coventry Observer the council leadership wanted to better understand the direction of Friargate after much talk and little action beyond the infrastructure work and the council’s decision to relocate there.
The progress report restates the scheme’s ambitions, by stating: “On 25 June 2013 Council approved that the organisation support the development of the Friargate Business District to regenerate the city, transform the council and deliver savings.”
Pavement cafes, a restaurant and a garden rooftop are among planned features of the second tower block, say architects for developers Friargate Coventry LLP, a vehicle for Irish-based property group Cannon Kirk.
The 25 new buildings, if the long-held ambitions are to be eventually realised, would create 14 new office buildings, hotels, shops and restaurants, and new homes.