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EQ Blog – James Dickinson, Director at Canning O’Neill

Hear from James Dickinson is Director at Canning O’Neill, joint property agent at Exchange Quay, on finding the right office accommodation to suit the needs of smaller businesses.

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Exchange Quay – Breaking the ICE with smaller businesses in mind

Finding the right office accommodation to suit the needs of smaller businesses, whether looking for space to grow or just starting out can be a daunting task.  At Exchange Quay, we are breaking the ICE with smaller businesses in mind.

Our 26,000 sq ft of Grade A refurbished offices and café lounge bar at ICE was introduced last year to boost our existing occupier offer and to create a more collaborative corporate community.  We are now splitting the building into smaller office suites which is adding appeal to SMEs and start-ups.

So what do smaller businesses and new enterprises want from their office space?  Isn’t it the same as more established companies, to be seen in the right location, in an environment that presents a professional image in a corporate setting and to impress customers and visitors alike?   Is it scope and space to grow, as well as an inspiring working environment that attracts and retains the best talent pool?  We think it’s all of these things and more.












Our ICE building redesign was developed to create a more coherent family of buildings with dedicated social meeting and bar space; bookable meeting rooms, a co-working zone and five upper storeys of top quality lettable office space.  By splitting up the space into smaller accommodation, we want to back enterprise by appealing to a diverse range of small and growing businesses to our people-focussed and progressive development.

Ultimately SMEs want a base that their employees look forward to working in and are proud of with a range of places to meet both professionally and socially.  They want to work somewhere that is accessible and has a wealth of amenities and facilities with good connectivity, great technology and offers the right health and wellbeing attributes – space they can make their own.

Exchange Quay has fast become one of Manchester’s premier business locations and is great for tenants and potential occupiers looking for Grade A corporate offices combined with co-working space; experiential uses, space for future expansion; a 3000 strong community of engaged tenants; hospitality services; top connectivity and building sustainability all under one roof in an unrivalled waterside location.

Values in the workplace are changing, which in turn means that what occupiers want from an office building is also evolving.  A successful working environment must cater for a fully diverse workforce with the employee work-life and wellbeing experience becoming pivotal to finding and keeping great people.

Exchange Quay supports its tenant base on how they choose to work and provides a haven to come together – to work, meet, talk, network, present, eat, shop, drink, relax, entertain and socialise at ICE.

EQ Meet the Team – Jasper Sanders, Designer

Hear from Jasper Sanders at Jasper Sanders & Partners on their approach to designing the new reception in Building 8 at Exchange Quay.

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Exchange Quay – Meet the Team Series
Jasper Sanders, Designer, May 2020

Tell us about your day job

I run a Design and Architecture studio in Manchester. We’re a group of people who take on special projects where we think we can make a difference. We hope to help organisations become more prosperous by reinventing spaces to become better for the people who use them. We aim to create the very best design that’s innovative, beautiful, unique and long-lasting.

 What have you been tasked with doing at Exchange Quay?

We’ve been tasked with creating a series of entrance spaces that welcome people to Exchange Quay. We wish to create a great sense of pride and build upon the best attributes of the site. There’s a need to create spaces that have a strong sense of purpose and celebrate the unique qualities of Exchange Quay. Building 8 has an open generous entrance space where there’s the opportunity to create a vibrant and rich experience for the building users.

 Talk us through your concept for the new reception

The design aims to create a new and fresh interior that feels like a natural part of the building architecture and is impressive but not self-conscious.

The buildings built in the 1980s were inspired by the canal systems close by and so we’re aiming to put the maritime spirit back at the heart of the design.

Why is reception space so important?

It’s a big space, for a big building on a large workplace campus, close to the city. It’s a welcome point for visitors and needs to be business-like.

It must work as a whole and perform for the occupiers, and the staff who work there. It must deliver something positive for those businesses. It needs to look good but importantly needs to work well.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

We’re inspired every day in the belief we can make life better. We like to improve how things work for people and know that what is good for people will be great for business and will have a low impact on the planet.

In terms of inspiration for what it looks like – At Exchange Quay we’re inspired to reinvent these spaces to echo the spirit of the original – to bring the outside in and complete the story of the place. This is an honest way to create the design…not needing to look outside of this or make something that feels like lots of other places, but be honest to its core identity.

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve been given or would want to pass on?

Design is about problem-solving so spend time understanding what it is that needs resolving – it’s too easy to race to the next glamourous, luxurious or fashionable solution. I’m sure a post-virus world will not tolerate this indulgent approach any longer.

Quick fire:

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

I love working with my team.

What’s your favourite thing about Manchester?

Its endeavour to love life.

What’s the best thing about Exchange Quay?

That it’s being run by a superlative management team, led by Les Lang and Liam MacCarthy.