Merseytravel signs 140,000 sq ft Mann Island prelet

Merseytravel, the combined passenger transport executive and authority, has completed the deal to prelet the 140,000 sq ft office building at Neptune Developments' and Countryside Properties' Mann Island in Liverpool.

The deal is the biggest prelet in Liverpool for several years. Merseytravel will relocate from four sites to the new 11-storey waterfront office when it is completed in around two years' time.

Steve Parry, managing director of Neptune, said: "This is one of the biggest commercial property deals in the country and certainly the biggest office letting in Liverpool for several years."

The last major prelet on this scale came in 2005, when law firm Hill Dickinson signed to move to a 130,000 sq ft office at English Cities Fund's St Paul's Square.

Parry added: "Securing the letting has been greatly assisted by the quality of the public realm and new buildings at Mann Island and the Pier Head which will make this the premier office, residential and leisure location in the city."

Merseytravel is understood to be paying in excess of £20/sq ft for a 30-year lease. The building is expected to be presold as an investment to a German pension fund for around £50m now that the covenant is secure.

As well as modernising its offices, the move is symbolic for Merseytravel as it places it next to its ferry terminal, opposite the historic Pier Head tunnel ventilation building, within site of the Merseyrail underground at James Street and across the road from bus services at Paradise Street.

Neptune said the new headqaurters will achieve the BREEAM 'excellent' environmental standard. Merseytravel launched its search for new offices around two years ago.

The prelet gives the 2009 take-up figures a welcome boost before January is over. Office take-up in Liverpool city centre in 2008 was 270,000 sq ft, down 23% on the five-year average according to DTZ.

Neil Scales, chief executive and director general of Merseytravel, added: "This is the right location for an organisation that is striving to be the best that it can be and will help us work much more closely across all divisions of our business. Our vision has been to unite our staff under one roof and put ourselves in the best possible position for the future.

"There is a great deal of history at our current headquarters in Hatton Garden. However, the age of the building is also one of the biggest problems. Staying there was no longer a long-term option as the ongoing maintenance costs were very high and the site just wasn't big enough to pull all our staff together."

The £135m Neptune/Countryside scheme will include two granite buildings containing apartments, shops, restaurants and a series of sheltered waterside public spaces.

CB Richard Ellis advised Merseytravel. Nick Rice, senior director at CBRE, said: "This landmark deal is one of the largest seen in the Liverpool for many years and is testament to the team's continued hard work in a challenging market. It is great news for the city's office market at a difficult time and we are confident that it will bring forward other schemes needed to meet continuing demand for Grade A office space."

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