Durham remains a strong city and for the size of its population it has always punched well above its weight due to strong demographics and a population inflated by large student numbers and a consistent and increasing tourist industry.
The town has taken great strides forward over the past two decades with development in the city centre and outskirts enhancing the town’s credentials as a place to live, work, study, visit and invest.
The city centre retail offer was enhanced by the introduction a number of years ago of the Prince Bishops Shopping Centre. The leisure industry has been enhanced by the development of Walkergate Leisure Centre with a number of bars and restaurants adjacent to the Gala Theatre.
The major development at Freemans Reach is the focus of activity upon the riverside where the development consortium comprising Carillion Developments, Arlington Real Estate and Richardson Capital are proceeding at pace upon the £27m two phase office scheme.
The first phase will house the relocation of the National Savings and Investment office from Milburngate House.
The second will accommodate the HM Passport Office which is also moving across the river from Milburngate House.
The scheme secures more than 1,300 public sector jobs within Durham city and is the key anchor for the regeneration of the Durham Riverside.
The city historically had little to offer in terms of quality offices.
However, the development of new office buildings at Aykley Heads adjacent to the County Hall and the development at Belmont Business Park of out of town office space adjacent to the A1 has provided a much needed provision of modern office space. Future office provision is also likely to be promoted adjacent to Durham County Hall.
The balance of out of town retail warehousing has been improved. Historically the main retail warehouse provision in the city was on the northern periphery at the Arnison Retail Park.
This park, owned by CBRE Investors, has been extended with the latest works including the expansion of the Sainsburys supermarket and reconfiguration of the adjoining petrol station.
Significant provision has also been provided to the south side of the city at Durham Retail Park where key occupiers include B & Q and Tesco.
Retail, office and industrial rents have proved to be robust in the recent downturn.
The World Heritage site together with the tight confines and topography of the historic city centre severely limit development opportunities and hence the provision of a further supply of commercial space.
There have been very few commercial investment transactions taking place in Durham.
However, we would anticipate healthy demand for well let properties in all sectors as and when investments are offered to the marketplace.
Simon Beanland, senior director, Investment, GVA, Newcastle