February 22, 2014
With its headquarters in Great Shelford, just south of Cambridge, Wrenbridge has often been taken as an archetypal local developer. It’s a perception chief executive Ben Coles is keen to dispel.
“We’ve never been a Cambridge developer,” he says. “We’re a developer based in Cambridge.” This isn’t simply a quibble about semantics. The lack of opportunities in Cambridge means that Wrenbridge has always cast its net wider than the city.
And it’s a fact that most of the developer’s present` schemes, with an end value of £342m, are located outside Cambridgeshire, as far away as Bath and Worcester. Ironically, though, one of the firm’s newest joint ventures is a £12m,130-room student housing scheme in… central Cambridge. And Coles says the former county council city-centre offices at Black Horse House have massive potential. So a bid from Wrenbridge is almost certain when the redevelopment goes through the OJEU tender process later this year.
Developing close to home isn’t always straightforward, as Wrenbridge found in 2010 when it took on, together with Grosvenor, the proposed 21-acre Cambridge Sporting Village in Trumpington. The £15m scheme became mired in opposition from local residents. A compromise has recently been struck that should see the joint-venture partners submit a revised planning application this summer.
Wrenbridge showed its resilience by ploughing on with a diverse range of other schemes. Although Coles says he is cautious when it comes to the retail sector, the company has just signed a deal to revamp a big shopping centre in south London. The firm is already working with Cordea Savills on the retail rejuvenation of Hertford town centre and has been shortlisted for a similar job in Hemel Hempstead.
And it is eyeing up the Thames Valley for future office opportunities. Wrenbridge and Luminar let most of the space in the 115,000 sq ft Reading Bridge building they bought jointly last year for refurbishment, and Coles says the town is an attractive proposition.
Author: Mark Simmons, Estates Gazette