Cambridge Innovation Park at Waterbeach opens with help from Titan the Robot
Start-up support firm Incubyte also showcases its offer
Cambridge Innovation Park’s new 30,000sq ft building, Blenheim House, is now built and ready for occupation.
The region’s newest facility was previewed to 200 guests, including the mayor of the regional authority, James Palmer, and Lucy Frazer, Conservative MP for South East Cambridgeshire, on Thursday evening.
Guests were initially invited to the site’s original building, Stirling House – already a successful hub – where start-up support firm Incubyte showcased the success story at the Waterbeach-based facility.
Guests were then treated to drinks and canapés at Blenheim House, where the guest of honour was Titan the Robot, who amused with his rendition of My Way and a seamless supply of cast-iron jests to visitors such as “Does heaven know one of its angels is missing?” and “Excuse me I’m supposed to be the entertainment here!”.
Cambridge Innovation Park has been developed by Paragon Land & Estates. Paragon’s managing director, Rick Parisi, said: “Our aim is that Cambridge Innovation Park becomes an integral part of the wider community, offering amenities to all that enhance the quality of life of park tenants, their visitors and Waterbeach residents alike.”
Half the spaces at Blenheim House have already been pre-let. Collaborative partnerships with Inspired Health & Fitness Club and Inspired Beauty Spa, Soda Bistro and Beach Babies Nursery have already been signed.
Firms with stands at the preview event included Ann Pettengell, Outspoken Delivery, CW, Star Drop Software, Arcan Home Movies and Urban & Civic.
Mr Titan rounded off proceedings by serenading a lady in a red cardigan with a well-oiled rendition of Lady in Red.
An interview with Rick Parisi and Nick Hadley
The team at Paragon Land & Estates struck gold when they bought the land which is now home to Cambridge Innovation Park.
But when managing director Rick Parisi, who founded the Littleport-based property firm in 1983, acquired the site in Waterbeach it was against the advice of others in the industry.
“It had been up for sale for four years,” Parisi says of the 10-acre plot. “It had been Ministry of Defence office accommodation previously; we bought it as a derelict site.
“It’s brilliantly placed as most of the traffic problems are in Cambridge and you bypass them, but it’s still easily accessible from the M11 and A14.”
The site, which was acquired five years ago, had one building on it. Stirling House was a fantastic building, but pretty rundown. However, the team, which includes general manager Nick Hadley, got to work and the results have proved hugely successful.
“Stirling House was the only building on the 10 acres,” says Parisi. “The building was in a poor state. We’ve completely rebuilt the entire inside and done a lot of refurbishment work, so there are now 40 companies with 300 people working in the 45,000 square foot building. We now have enough fibre-optic capacity to cope with a brand new data centre – it’s been future-proofed.”
There’s always a waiting list for a Stirling House address.
“It’s overflowing,” says Parisi. “It took 13 months to fill and, because it’s been so successful, we applied for planning permission for a new-build two years ago.”
Phase 1 of the second building, Blenheim House, is now built. Phase 2 is scheduled for completion in 2019 – offering a further 52,000 square feet.
Most of the occupants of Stirling House are IT and software-related firms.
“Innovation. That’s the point,” says Hadley. “Confidence has grown when we’ve seen how people get it.”
The design for Blenheim House started with a blank sheet of paper.
“It’s all modular,” says Parisi of the outcome. “There’s 1,000 sq ft modules, each with their own front door, so you have your own frontage plus your own space. They can be linked so clients can have any combination of 1,000 sq ft premises. What’s happening at Cambridge Innovation Park is that people are moving out of Stirling House into Blenheim House and when they move out someone takes their place straight away.
“In terms of pricing, it’s massively competitive. In any other business centre in the area, rents inclusive of service charge would be £50 per square foot, we’re at only £25.50 per square foot.”
Facilities are to include a gym, jacuzzi, steam room, tanning booth, beauty salon and a day nursery.
Parisi was originally a mechanical engineer but “got bored, so I started a print company, then an export company, then invested in property”.
Paragon Land & Estates began in 1983 with a focus on residential property.
“I decided I was going to go into commercial property in 2000, and began buying retail shops. I bought in Kent, Dorset, Yorkshire, Hertfordshire and Somerset. We’ve now moved from pure investment to development. We buy the land, design, build or convert the buildings, then let them and operate the site.”
The company is now very focused on ensuring that the Cambridge Innovation Park project maximises its potential.
“We’re the developer, we also own the entire site. We refurbished Stirling House, designed Blenheim House and introduced Incubyte, a tech start-up incubator, to the site,” says Parisi. “There’s some fantastic stuff happening in the proximity: the site is next to Waterbeach Barracks, which is being redeveloped by Urban & Civic, and will provide amenity space for the development adjoining two sides of our site.
“With Phase 2 of the development, we’ll be introducing shuttle buses to connect with local public transport links and into Cambridge city.
“The whole area will be buzzing. Waterbeach is set to increase to a size equivalent to Ely over the next 20 years.
“The Waterbeach Barracks development will include a new train station which will be closer to Cambridge Innovation Park than Cambridge North, plus there will be a Park & Ride site almost adjacent to us. It’s a nice cycle ride along the towpath into Cambridge city.”
Next up, Paragon is “hoping to build a technology and innovation centre on a three-acre site that has been acquired in West Cambridge”.
Paragon’s build-out looks set to continue for some while yet.
Visit paragon.land, call 01353 861436 or email email@example.com.