WHY MARKETING ICONIC HISTORIC BUILDINGS REQUIRES REAL EMPATHY FOR OUR HERITAGE
Published 19 July 2022
We have become so accustomed to reading particulars for ultra-modern office buildings on business parks on the fringes of Norwich that it is easy to forget the historic nature of the city we live in. Before the industrial revolution, Norwich was England’s second city, and its architecture inevitably reflects this. We are fortunate to live amongst some truly iconic buildings.
Of course, these are not museum pieces (not all of them, anyway). Many of these ancient and architecturally important structures remain in use, not just as residential dwellings, but as commercial premises, too.
When it comes to finding occupiers for such buildings, the process is rather more nuanced than normal. It’s not just a question of finding a sound business which is going to be able to pay the rent; you need to find occupiers who will be a good ‘fit’ for the building, who will appreciate and nurture its role in our historic city, and who will benefit from its uniqueness.
Last year Arnolds Keys helped the Norwich Preservation Trust find new custodians of the 14th century Briton’s Arms in Elm Hill, following the retirement of the former occupiers after 44 years. This was not a usual lettings process: we decided to run a competition in which we asked potential occupiers to outline how they would ensure the building remained an important part of the Norwich landscape. I am delighted to report that the winner is doing just that.
Now we are marketing another historic building on behalf of the Norwich Preservation Trust, the 16th century Augustine Steward House on Tombland. Once the home of the eponymous Mayor and MP, it was extensively refurbished by the Trust in the 1990s, and now comprises just over 3,000 sq ft of office space over two floors.
It is important to find the right occupiers for such buildings. They can offer uniqueness, the ability to be noticed, and the creative inspiration of being in beautiful architectural surroundings, but their historic and listed status also comes with challenges including restrictions on what changes can be made, and specialist maintenance.
This means that marketing such properties is about identifying potential occupiers who will benefit from the architectural heritage, whether through the inspiration of working in a truly unique space, or the ability to stand out and be noticed by customers due to being located in such an iconic building.
That probably translates into independently-owned businesses in the creative sphere, rather than, say, corporate firms more interested in being in the most contemporary of spaces.
Marketing such buildings requires a genuine ‘feel’ for the city, and a deep knowledge of the local business scene in order to be able to identify suitable prospective occupiers – as well as a pride in ensuring that the amazing history of our great city is preserved.
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