Gloucester City Council and Reef Group, the mixed-use regeneration specialist, are targeting the booming digital and cyber-technology industry with the launch of The Forum, a new technology campus in the heart of Gloucester.
The £107m project, which is being delivered by Reef Group in a Joint Venture with Gloucester City Council, offers a blueprint for city centre regeneration after the pandemic, with a focus on technology, sustainability, and wellbeing, in a new age of hybrid working.
The Forum is a 600,000 sqft mixed-use campus offering 135,000 sqft of Grade A workspace, a 4* hotel with 130 rooms, rooftop restaurant and bar, state-of-the-art digital conference facilities, a wellness centre, and a member’s club and rooftop bar. The project will also feature 43 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, and new cafes, bars and restaurants at street-level. The scheme features a new bus station for Gloucester and is located adjacent to the city’s rail station, which is set to be redeveloped with £6m of new investment from GFirst LEP.
At the gateway to the city and with unrivalled views to Gloucester’s cathedral, the scheme is a key part of the council’s Kings Quarter regeneration, which will deliver over 2 acres of fully pedestrianised public space including King’s Square. The University of Gloucestershire is also creating a new city centre campus, including a new nursing school, on the site of the former Debenhams store adjacent to the square, while Reef is also overseeing the refurbishment of King’s Walk Shopping Centre, which will include enhanced facades, remodelled shop fronts and a new glass atrium.
One of the most sustainable council-led regeneration projects in the country, The Forum will operate at Net Zero Carbon from the outset and features a seven-storey living ‘green wall’, one of the largest in the UK. The scheme has been designed to appeal to tech firms looking to tap Gloucester’s growing talent pool, with young professionals seeking a more balanced lifestyle away from London and larger cities, and could become a centre of excellence and innovation for global tech firms.
Stewart Deering, Joint Chief Executive of Reef Group, said: “Gloucester has a fantastic energy – it’s a young city, with a high proportion of graduates and start-ups. Close links to GCHQ have helped to support a strong technology sector, which in turn helps to foster a wider eco-system of digital businesses, all with The Cotswolds on your doorstep. It is an attractive mix for the tech industry.”
Councillor Richard Cook, leader of Gloucester City Council said: “We recognised early on the need to embrace the way cities are changing and the need to invest in our infrastructure to make sure we were on the front foot. Working with our partners we’ve been able to secure millions to regenerate the north of the city centre and we’re finding that this confidence is paying off as more and more investment is being attracted into Gloucester as a result.
“As a council committed to being carbon neutral by 2030, it was also important to us that any development was sustainable and we believe The Forum and the wider scheme achieves this especially by fully integrating public transport into the plans. We’ve long been known as a beautiful and historic city to visit but we’re also one that is future ready and outward looking as well.”
The campus will be one of the most digitally connected and cyber-secure developments in the country, rated WiredScore Platinum, and has been designed to create a dynamic mix of start-ups, scale-ups and big tech occupiers. The mix of uses, amenities and layouts within the campus have been chosen to foster collaboration and innovation in a new era of hybrid and agile working.
Split across two buildings of seven storeys, the development offers stunning views of Gloucester cathedral and the surrounding countryside, with a distinctive sky bridge and viewing platform connecting the two buildings. One Cathedral View, which will complete in 2023, offers 109,000 sqft of office space with three distinct inter-linked wings, including dedicated spaces for focused working and collaboration, but with flexible floorplates to provide occupational flexibility to respond to changing space requirements. The location, scale and quality of The Forum is unrivalled in the South West, providing an affordable, ‘hyper local’ campus for tech firms.
The buildings will operate at Net Zero Carbon from the outset, with 100% renewable electricity, low energy demand due to passive design principles, and annual carbon offsetting. Rated BREEAM Excellent, the building will also feature green roofs and can save occupiers up to 50% on operational costs due to natural ventilation, smart building technology and rooftop solar electricity generation.