First Base online roundtable

Date: 18 Nov 2020

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First Base discusses sustainable regeneration of Saxon Court which will boost local enterprise

Mixed use developer First Base has unveiled its plans for the redevelopment of Saxon Court to members of MKBLP, highlighting the opportunities within the new hub for the city’s independent businesses, and how the development will have a social value of £100 million within a decade.

The sale of the ex-MK Council site to First Base and real estate investor, Patron Capital forms part of the council’s £2bn COVID-19 recovery plan to transform the site into a tech and innovation hub with high quality new homes.

The heritage site is set to be regenerated into 160,000 sq ft of office workspace, retail, and community outlets and over 250 Build-to-Rent apartments, 31% of which will be affordable accommodation.

During the online event, First Base’s Engagement and Social Value lead, Liam Ronan-Chlond, and Project Director Marc Corbett announced that local consultations, incorporating communities across Milton Keynes, are due to start in early December.

As one of the original office buildings in Milton Keynes, Saxon Court is among many old office blocks in need of regeneration, and Milton Keynes business leaders were keen to understand First Base’s long term vision, and how the development would be future proofed.

“Retaining the value of developments 10, 20 years down the line is really important to us. To hold value, we are interested in creating a bespoke place which is about people, not just bricks and mortar. And to do this we need to invest in the community around the site.”

“We want to understand what makes the area tick and are working with businesses, charities and communities to create a vision which pulls the best of MK together.”

Originally focusing on developing affordable housing in London, First Base pivoted to a different business model five years ago, following the trend of businesses moving away from the capital. With developments in Brighton, Bristol and Cambridge, First Base saw the value in Milton Keynes.

“Milton Keynes has been significantly undervalued. Patron Capital shares our enthusiasm for the  huge growth potential in the area. During the Covid 19 crisis, when everyone said the office was dead, they saw the future in Milton Keynes and believe it to be the right time to invest.”

With the planning application for Saxon Court due to be submitted next Spring, a fundamental element is to support Milton Keynes’ target to be a net-zero carbon city by 2030.  

To this end, the Redways will play a key role within the Saxon Court redevelopment, ‘this is a great piece of infrastructure that many cities will kill for,’ with a greater reliance on public transport links rather than cars.

In keeping with city’s position as innovation leaders, cutting edge technology is set to be embedded throughout the development to ensure the site remains sustainable and future-proof.

Delivering a mix of coworking and modern workspace for corporate occupiers and remote workers, the site will also meet the need for more agile ‘hub and spoke’ developments, in a shift away from traditional corporate headquarters, a move accelerated by Covid-19.

While the development of the mixed-use scheme is set to meet MK Council’s vision for good quality and affordable housing, MKBLP members were also keen to understand the connectivity between the site and local retailers. First Base highlighted that they were looking for variance in the offering and as a result would be turning to independent businesses rather than chains.

“There will be opportunities for local businesses, this is a core part of the development.”