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£8m revamp of town centre offices could help Ipswich become a city

PUBLISHED: 07:30 21 March 2019 | UPDATED: 08:20 21 March 2019

Connexions 159, the transformed former Fisons HQ in Princes Street, is now fully let. Malcolm Hobbs and Paul Downing of Hobbs Read outside the landmark building
Picture: DAVID VINCENT

Connexions 159, the transformed former Fisons HQ in Princes Street, is now fully let. Malcolm Hobbs and Paul Downing of Hobbs Read outside the landmark building Picture: DAVID VINCENT

Archant

The multi-million pound revamp of the former Fisons headquarters in Princes Street is now fully let, in a move town centre leaders hope will create a "fantastic" first impression of Ipswich.

Inside the Connexions 159 reception, Malcolm Hobbs and Paul Downing of developers Hobbs Read
Picture: DAVID VINCENTInside the Connexions 159 reception, Malcolm Hobbs and Paul Downing of developers Hobbs Read Picture: DAVID VINCENT

Developers of Connexions 159 – which has been transformed into offices in an £8m development – have revealed it will soon be fully occupied by 250 workers.

The block is home to a variety of companies, with two more leases signed to take up the remaining office space.

Bosses believe it will be full by the summer – and say most of the tenants were growing local firms looking for more space, with good access to the railway station.

Commercial director Malcolm Hobbs, who took on the empty building in 2014, said it was a real leap of faith and added: “It was a very big project.

The former Fisons building in Princes Street,  Ipswich, in April 1995 Picture: ARCHANTThe former Fisons building in Princes Street, Ipswich, in April 1995 Picture: ARCHANT

“It has been challenging, but it has been fun.

“We backed Ipswich. We were just coming out of the recession and it was quite a bold move, a leap of faith, to spend a lot of money on it.

“We thought there was going to be a demand for good quality offices. “This was the first new Grade A office development in Ipswich this century.

“Others have followed, Birketts and the Archant building, and The Maltings is nearing completion.”

He added: “The Princes Street business corridor is really looking good. There is a new campaign to make Ipswich a city.

“This sort of thing will help it.”

Terry Hunt, chairman of Ipswich Vision, welcomed the news.

“Princes Street is becoming a very vibrant business corridor, and for people arriving at Ipswich railway station and walking along Princes Street towards the Cornhill, it really creates a fantastic impression of Ipswich.”

The £8m project to revamp the former Fisons headquarters was taken on by Hobbs Read, of which Mr Hobbs is a director, in 2014.

As an Ipswich Town fan he knew the building well, walking past it on his way to matches at Portman Road.

“I even knew a couple of people who worked there too, 30 years ago,” he added.

Work on the project began five years ago and finished in September 2016.

Mr Hobbs added: “We stripped it back to its original concrete frame. We wrapped it in a new steel frame and reinforced it with new steel columns, and we added an extra floor. It is now four storeys.

“The architect did a fantastic job.

“We wanted it to be the best office space to do business in Ipswich.”

Of the staff working at Connexions 159, 60% lived in Ipswich, Mr Hobbs said, and 33% used public transport, cycled or walked to work.

There are further development plans in the area, including the council’s proposals for a new multi-storey car park, and the Drum & Monkey pub site.

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