London Fringe markets have a diverse occupier profile, from startups in the media and creative sectors in eastern areas like Hackney, to established tech firms in and around the Old Street roundabout. Until recently, commercial property in this area was in very high demand from both newcomers to the city and companies who relocated from other parts of London.
Although demand for offices in the City Fringe is still there, Brexit and pandemic-related uncertainty has put a damper on the area’s growth trajectory. In this area, overall vacancy rates have increased from under 6% to over 9% in the past year, and availability for the City Fringe sub-market is just under 12%.
The following is an area-by-area update on the state of City Fringe offices during 2021:
Clerkenwell is part of London’s Tech Belt and has a strong presence of office-based businesses primarily involved in design, architecture, media, and technology.
This sub-market started 2021 with signs of improvement in take up activity, however, take up levels are still more than 50% below the area’s ten-year average. Prime office headline rents average £75 per square foot, rising to over £110 once business rates are added.
The Farringdon office market was once called London’s biggest disruptor due to its strategic location between the West End and the City. This area is home to a diverse occupier mix, ranging from leisure to education and finance companies.
Farringdon has some of the highest vacancy rates in central London, which exceeded 9% in late 2020. It also has some of the area’s highest asking rents which, when coupled with Clerkenwell, averaged £80 per square foot in early 2021.
Despite the high vacancy levels, Farringdon is currently spearheading recovery in City Fringe markets, as some of the largest lease transactions of 2021 have taken place here.
Hackney is a popular option for media and creative companies due to lower office rental costs, improved connectivity, and the availability of local talent, since there’s a large number of young professionals who have made this part of East London their home. Several large campus-style offices and serviced office providers cater to business owners looking for flexible rental options.
Average office rents in the Hackney-Stratford area stand at £45 per square foot.
Offices in Holborn are occupied by a mix of education, consulting, e-commerce and technology firms. The area is close to tourist hotspots like Covent Garden, so there is plenty of retail activity to support high visitor numbers. However, the past year has seen all sides of commercial real estate activity dwindle significantly.
Although there has been little activity in the area since mid-2020, the second quarter of 2021 saw some large deals materialising in this sub-market. These involved Grade A offices which were leased by transportation and fintech companies.
Average rents in Holborn are holding up at £70 to £100 per square foot.
Shoreditch stands out as one of the most desirable City Fringe locations for office-based businesses. The area has a mix of conventional and flexible office space that appeals to a diverse occupier base, ranging from FinTech businesses to fashion houses and creative firms. The most well-known occupiers include Amazon, Google, Transferwise, Apple, and Facebook.
The situation of the Shoreditch office market is similar to that in Clerkenwell. There has been some improvement in take up rates after a weak 2020, but things are still far from pre-pandemic levels. This sub-market was one of the first to reflect soaring availability levels after lockdown, since due to the nature of the typical Shoreditch occupier profile, it was easier for these companies to implement remote work.
Headline rents stand at around £68 per square foot, rising to £100 per square foot when business rates are included. Grade B offices rental rates average £50-£57 per square foot. The latest data available situate vacancy rates at nearly 8%.