by the people, for the people
During the upheaval of the past year, the meaning of going to work changed unrecognisably for many, with days blending into one and little face-to-face interaction. Amidst all the uncertainty, some might believe it’s been impossible to attract new occupiers, but Republic is here to prove them wrong. With more than 95,000 sq. ft of new lettings completing in 2020, along with 20,000 sq. ft of lease renewals, Republic is thought to represent around a third of all take-up in Docklands in 2020.
So, what’s driving the success of this once-forgotten collection of buildings north east of London’s Canary Wharf? Five years ago, the area formerly known as East India Dock was tired and dated, with facilities on offer to the few occupiers described as relatively basic.
Spread over four buildings comprising 650,000 sq. ft of office and retail space, the site underwent major refurbishment, which began in 2015 and reached completion during 2018 for the Import Building and 2019 for the Export Building, transforming these buildings into contemporary properties and bringing property developer Trilogy Real Estate’s vision to life.
The campus is steeped in history: the Import Dock on which it stands was built in 1806 and its listed dock wall still surrounds Republic. Today, more than 200 years after its first iteration, the dock-side campus is a snapshot of ultra-modern life in East London, which has in recent years become renowned as a thriving community of creativity and innovation.
Priced out of gentrified areas such as Shoreditch, fast-moving young innovative firms faced a dearth of high-quality community-led workspace, but the transformation of Republic offered them just that. Only five minutes’ walk from Canary Wharf, but a world away from its slick suits, corporate formalities and high-end retail, the mood at Republic epitomises the East London vibe, where community is everything. It’s a youthful, energetic atmosphere, with a culture of creativity and a real sense of place.
Brought on board by Trilogy Real Estate and fund manager LaSalle Investment Management, Workman’s role from the outset of the refurbishment in 2015 was to manage the property effectively, so that it could remain viable for existing occupiers, while also creating a new experience that makes Republic a destination attractive to new ones. And while digital agencies and tech companies have arrived in force, Republic has also been populated by a range of educational service providers, whose tutors deliver online lessons from campus during lockdowns, while students are able to enjoy hybrid courses with a mixture of online lectures, and meeting their tutors in person when possible.
Build it and they will come
This constant flow of people has buoyed food and beverage uptake, which has remained strong over the course of 2020, with new occupiers such as Sweet Nothing Bakehouse, a whiskey bar and fresh food shop soon to come on board, joining the onsite roastery and restaurants already on offer at the site. What’s more, the population of students coming in and out of Republic offers its office occupiers a fresh crop of employees to choose from, with a careers fair event now high on the agenda.
Indeed, in pre-Covid times, Republic played host to a raft of large-scale live events such as Courier Live, Bisnow and the Technology. Behaviour. Data. conference. These events attracted a wide range of people to the campus, increasing the profile of the site and allowing potential new occupiers the realisation that Republic is less than 20 minutes from the City.
The crowning glory here is that with each occupier integration, relationships are cemented, business links are forged, and real friendships are formed, making it all the more likely that leases will be renewed. Indeed, why move when your business is closely integrated with partners within the same buildings?
Pivot to occupier needs
Much more than a desk and chair, working at Republic is like being part of an inclusive family. Working alongside the Community Team, Workman’s Welcome property management service has introduced amenities to the campus including a barber and a nail technician, along with onsite bike servicing and repair and nutritionist appointments. This is in addition to the two onsite gyms, which offer occupiers discounted membership, and the programme of wellbeing events with activities such as yoga and meditation running throughout the week to assist occupiers, not only with their physical health, but also their mental wellbeing.
During lockdowns, occupier engagement has cleverly pivoted to meet the needs of those working from home, with online cookery courses, Christmas wreath-making, talks about sleep-quality improvement and looking after mental health during the pandemic. So, even when occupiers aren’t able to meet in person, they can still take advantage of the community services and events on offer. Welcome and the Community Team regularly collects ideas from occupiers about what they want to see provided, so the team can ensure that events and talks are targeted to their needs.
Not just a day at the office
And when we emerge out of lockdowns, Republic is well positioned to welcome occupiers back, with ample outdoor seating and meeting areas, including wi-fi and electric sockets which make the space seamless for outdoor working. With its informal outdoor meeting booths, waterfalls running through the public realm, and deckchairs put out in the summer, Republic offers occupiers the chance to blend their work and leisure time, in the way that so many workers have now become accustomed.
For those who’ve got used to the company of furry friends over lockdowns, there’s a pet policy so that occupiers can bring their dogs into the office. There’s also Little Me Nursery, a visiting physio and coming soon, there will be a car valeting service, so when occupiers do return to the workplace, it won’t simply be to sit in front of a screen, but rather to incorporate all elements of their life into their day at the office – it’s a full-service destination that’s easy, convenient and full of home comforts.
Feel-good factor at work
There’s a feel-good factor at work here too, because Republic has a strong commitment to both sustainability and the wider community. Its solar panels, bat boxes, insect hotels, green roofs, wildflower meadows and herb gardens, all managed by Welcome, feed into a broader ESG agenda, where carbon reduction and the drive to Net Zero is the key goal.
In the wider community, Welcome is continuing to support a local cause, First Love Foundation, as Republic’s 2020 nominated charity. And for City Gateway, an occupier of the Import Building, which helps provide education to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, Welcome has facilitated several apprenticeship schemes within the Republic campus.
And as if that wasn’t enough to make occupiers feel good about coming to work, there’s also the chance to see ads being filmed, top photographers at work and celebrities making TV shows.
It’s all in a day’s work at Republic.
By Eleanor Newton, Associate, Workman