Work on one of the biggest regeneration projects in Bradford city centre begins next week although debate over whether it is needed remains.
Once complete, One City park will be a 56,403sq, five-storey Grade A office building next to City Park, on the former site of the Tyrls Police station.
Proposed by Bradford Council as a way of attracting new businesses to the city centre, the development is expected to cost around £35m, with funding coming from the Council and Government.
Muse Developments will begin enabling works on the site, currently a temporary park, on Monday, with construction due to begin in May.
One City park is expected to have been completed by Summer 2023.
Since the plans were announced there have been questions over whether new office space is needed in Bradford due to a large number of empty buildings in the city centre.
The Council has pointed out that much of the existing space in the city is in older buildings, unlikely to attract businesses who could easily find more modern, attractive office space in neighbouring cities such as Leeds.
At a meeting of Bradford Council on Tuesday, Debbie Davies (Cons, Baildon) asked why the Council was spending money developing this site when a nearby office building, a former HMRC building now being marketed as Latitude, was on sale for £4.2m.
According to promotional material, that building also offers Grade A office space.
A response from the Council Executive said: “Although described as Grade ‘A’ accommodation, it technically will not achieve that standard without the completion of proposed extensive refurbishment works by the owner, at an additional cost.
“The building is some 30 years old, and even if the proposed improvement works are completed the building has failed to attract any new corporate occupiers and would still fall short of the quality and specification proposed for One City Park.
“There have been discussions with at least one major international business who considered locating a significant proportion of their workforce in Bradford previously, who have looked at Latitude and found it didn’t meet their requirements.
“Ultimately they chose to locate elsewhere in the country, underlining the need for a premium quality commercial offer in the city centre.”
Cllr Davies added: “Given it looks like we will be seeing working from home for office workers in the long term, how can you be sure there will be demand for One City Park?”
Councillor Alex Ross Shaw, the portfolio holder for planning, regeneration and environment, replied: “The intention was never to create a traditional, full plan office space. It was more about flexible workspace which is still needed.
“Other cities that might be more advanced than ours when it comes to high-quality office space might be more exposed by businesses downsizing.
“There will be businesses that have an office estate of hundreds of thousands of square foot that may no longer want to have all this space but may still need flexible space.
“It isn’t about a business just lifting and shifting its staff. Businesses might be thinking about reducing their floor space, but have space with a higher quality feel and in a great location. It doesn’t get any better than on the doorstep of City park, the Alhambra and Bradford Live.”
From next week Muse will begin a package of enabling works including further site investigations and the removal of selected trees on the site, which has been approved under recently secured planning permission.
The company said: “The delivery of the One City Park project’s high-quality office space will also result in public realm works including the transformation of some existing green space into a new pocket park.”
Simon Dew, development director at Muse Developments said: “It’s great to get started on site with these enabling works so that we’re on track to begin construction in May 2022.
“We appreciate that City Park is a much-loved public area, and we will be working closely with our contractors to ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum where possible.”