Aston Martin is no secret agent offer

FANCY a vroommmm with a view?If you see an estate agent cruising about Ipswich in an Aston Martin DB9 sports car this summer, chances are he or she has just sealed a landmark deal for one of the town's most prominent buildings.

FANCY a vroommmm with a view?

If you see an estate agent cruising about Ipswich in an Aston Martin DB9 sports car this summer, chances are he or she has just sealed a landmark deal for one of the town's most prominent buildings.

Landmark House, which soars above the A14, became a property white elephant after it was built by American technology giant Agilent in 2000-01.

The company planned to house its research operation there but never occupied it and the building is still a shell.

The unfinished office block's current joint owner, Wrenbridge, along with its joint venture partner, has taken the unusual step of offering a new Aston Martin DB9 to the commercial property agent who finds a leaseholder for the entire building by this July.

To gain the coveted prize, the agent must locate a leaseholder who agrees to pay a rent in excess of £17 a sq ft.

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Wrenbridge is hoping the lure of the £100,000 DB9 - a favourite of TV car reviewer Jeremy Clarkson - will energise agents to find a suitable tenant or tenants.

In a review of the car in 2006, Clarkson tried and failed to leave the car on his driveway for a week in order to test whether it would start again after a few days of inactivity, saying: “I'm sorry, but having a DB9 on the drive and not driving it is a bit like having Keira Knightley in your bed and sleeping on the couch.”

Landmark House sat empty after it was built for Agilent for a planned expansion which never happened, following the end of the technology boom.

Instead, in the summer of 2003, Agilent cut around 200 jobs at its 16-acre Whitehouse Estate site as part of a global cost-cutting exercise. The firm eventually closed its Ipswich operation in 2005, with the loss of the remaining 35 jobs.

The 16-acre site, including the high-specification, hi-tech Landmark House was sold by Agilent to East Anglian Estates for an undisclosed sum around January, 2004.

Since then, it has been a stop-start tale for Landmark House, after a potential leaseholder for the site last year pulled out and decided to go overseas.

The building itself cost about £11million to build, but a further £5million needs to be spent on internal infrastructure to make it habitable once an occupant or occupants are found.

Wrenbridge, which became joint owners of the building in January 2007, says the prestigious four-storey building, comprising 57,000sq ft of office and research and development space, together with 240 car parking spaces, is ready to incorporate an individual tenant's specific finish.

Ben Coles, a director of Wrenbridge, said their target was to find an occupier, or individual occupiers for each floor, this year, and hoped the prize would help them achieve their goal.

“It's an expensive car,” he admitted. “If you put it in perspective, it's a big price to pay but we want people to be incentivised.”

The building has planning permission for a further floor, which would take it to five storeys, but its owners have no plans at present to build it unless a potential occupier would take on a further floor.

“There's nothing wrong with it. The building just needs to be finished,” said Mr Coles, who added that they already had various potential leaseholders in the wings.

Wrenbridge hopes that the lure of Ipswich as a major regional centre for administration, financial services and hi-tech industries and a long history of attracting major companies including Axa, Royal & Sun Alliance and BT, would attract a suitable leaseholder.

“Coupled with the exceptional finish and transport amenities, we believe that this campaign, offering the opportunity to win a brand new Aston Martin, will lead to an agent identifying the ideal occupier for Landmark House,” said Chris White of Wrenbridge.