Aug 06, 2021
Aug 06, 2021
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Read Time 5 mins
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As a mixed-use developer with specialist retail expertise, much of our work today focusses on repurposing. Office space is a great way to maximise value from excess retail because what was mall space paying no rent but still requiring maintenance, now becomes leasable.

Stuart Harris, COO

We’ve been working with the Mailbox’s new owners, M7 Real Estate, to repurpose the lower level creating 50,000 sq ft of office space, to be managed by flexible and co-working provider Spaces. Home to the BBC since 2004, WSP and other long term office tenants, the Mailbox’s canalside location, lifestyle, dining and retail offer and onsite car parking provides the perfect backdrop for those seeking flexible office space in the city.

Milligan and the Mailbox

Milligan and the Mailbox go back a long way. During our eight-year co-investment with Brockton, the indoor space was transformed and we created a high-end environment, a flagship Harvey Nichols store and welcomed new international retail brands including Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Paul Smith as well as leisure brands including Everyman Cinema and Castle Fine Art. Milligan also created Mailbox at Home, a 22,000 sq ft concept store comprising brands including Made.com, Heals and Bo Concepts. At the time, John Lewis was opening in the city and Grand Central was bringing a new wave of footfall in the Mailbox’s direction. But fast-forward a few years and the city, especially in a post-pandemic state, looks very different. It is now time for this city icon to adapt for new needs.

A new agenda

The lower level of the Mailbox presented several challenges in converting retail units and a mall to quality office accommodation in the post-Covid world. Budgetary control was especially important with the Mailbox REIT managed by M7 Real Estate being the first company to trade its shares on IPSX.

As part of a sustainability agenda, re-use of existing material was a priority. The former luxury mall finishes are being reused as an inviting collaboration area and ‘winter garden’ breakout space. Additional natural light in the new office space has been achieved by the introduction of new glazing along the north elevation.

A history of being repurposed

As far as buildings go, the Mailbox is relatively young. Built in 1970 it was originally a Royal Mail sorting house. The name stuck, but not much else. The underground tunnels leading to and from New Street Station were closed and it was converted in 2001 to one of the largest mixed-use buildings in the UK.

Today, some of the brands that called it home have made way for a different offer which will work to serve a new type of customer. Independent café, bakery and art gallery Medicine has recently opened on the second level as well as a new Italian restaurant overlooking the canal maximising its outdoor space with a glazed terrace.

The truly mixed-use offer of leisure and lifestyle alongside independent brands and experiences will be a welcome proposition for professionals seeking new ways of working. We’re really proud to have worked alongside M7 Real Estate on the next chapter for the Mailbox.

The design team of Weedons (architect), Cundall (Engineers) and EQ2 (lighting consultant), with their knowledge and experience of the former Mailbox refurbishment, have been appointed by the specialist contractor, Rhino Interiors, to promote efficient integration between design intent and delivery in quick time.

Works have commenced on site with completion in Q4 2021.