The great migration back to Melbourne CBD office space is on: JLL

The great migration back to the Melbourne CBD is on.

Fresh research from Jones Lang LaSalle has revealed a notable lift in the number of city fringe occupiers moving back to the Melbourne CBD over the past 12 months. Data from the paper recorded16 "centralised" transactions of more than 1000 square metres, compared with just three over the previous 12 month period.

Another measure was net absorption. In the year ending Q3/2013, JLL said, Melbourne CBD recorded positive net absorption (8,380 square metres) compared with negative net absorption (- 32,550 square metres) in the city fringe.

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Driving this migration back to the CBD, said the JLL Pulse report paper was a combination of higher incentives available in the CBD and narrowing of the rental spread between the CBD and decentralised markets which had "accelerated a wave of centralisation".

Another factor it cited was the limited new supply in the city fringe market, along with the significant shortage of contiguous space across. Only 11 prime grade options are available above 1,000 square metres, compared with 39 in the CBD.

The city fringe locations were identified as West Melbourne, North Melbourne, Parkville, Carlton, East Melbourne, Richmond, Abbotsford, South Yarra St Kilda, and Port Melbourne.

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The paper also made a point of saying that there was increasing demand from decentralised occupiers for "quality, well presented stock - driven by cultural change, cost savings, business contraction and expansion activities, and changes in the way people are working." Specifically, it said companies were increasingly seeking enhanced corporate identity through location - connectivity to the CBD, which offered firms closer proximity to clients and competitors.

JLL looked at a number of themes in its report on centralisation. One was the question of cost. JLL said that since 2008, it has recorded 42 major tenant moves (1,000 square metres plus) by occupiers moving into the CBD from decentralised locations. Its analysis showed that 85% of those occupiers had relocated to the periphery of the CBD, with very few locating to the core CBD itself.

But at the same time, it points out that increasing vacancy rates have exerted upward pressure on incentives, notably in the CBD. Over the past 12 months, average leasing incentives increased from 24 months’ rent free (20%) to 35 months’ rent free (29%) - above peak levels recorded during the GFC and currently at their highest level in 17 years, it added.

As such, "city fringe occupiers are increasingly looking at upgrading from lower grade assets and taking advantage of competitive rental terms", JLL said.  "Occupiers are seeking space with a generous fit-out incentive or an attractive turn-key solution which allows them to upgrade from their current accommodation."

Based on its assessment of average rent free periods (based on 10-year term) across a basket of grade A assets in the CBD and city fringe precincts, the average rental spread between gross face rents in the city and city fringe is about 25%.

However, taking into consideration the higher incentive levels offered in the CBD compared to the city fringe, JLL calculates that the average spread on an effective rent basis narrows to 12%. This spread becomes even more acute when comparing submarkets within the CBD and city fringe markets.

Looking out, JLL said believes that a lack of development activity and limited contiguous options for large space users in the city fringe combined with higher incentives available in the CBD will "continue to drive centralisation and support Melbourne CBD demand in the short term." While a number of medium-term lead indicators have started to improve and point towards a demand recovery in the Melbourne CBD.

"A reactivation of business investment projects will have a positive impact on white-collar employment, supporting our forecasts of above trend net absorption in the Melbourne CBD projected for 2016 (75,000 square metres) and 2017 (110,000 square metres)."

news@propertyobserver.com.au

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