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Although there have been innumerous changes to the face of Manchester over the past decade or so (think Spinningfields, Northern Quarter) there is evidence to suggest that this is the tip of the iceberg.

Five years ago you’d have struggled to find a crane on the city’s horizon. Now, however, Manchester looks like it’s being invaded by a series of long-necked metal monsters!

Manchester remains an incredibly attractive proposition for businesses and this has, of course, led to the growth of a new breed of design firms and forward-thinking schemes. We were, therefore, more than happy to meet with OBI’s James Scott and take a look at the firm’s latest innovative and exciting scheme for

Leading car hire firm has taken 38,000 sq ft on the second-to-sixth floors of 35 Fountain Street. This new office is in addition to the 60,000 sq ft at Sunlight House, where the firm employs around 1,000 people. The new base will allow to create another 200 jobs in Manchester in 2015 alone.

OBI Property represented on acquiring the new lease and was also appointed to design and project manage the new fit-out.

‘Although we’ve used a fairly unusual desk layout for the teams – we didn’t want traditional straight runs of desks – we’ve been able to put in just as many seats. It’s very efficient. Everyone does have their own desk here – although they do move teams around.’

The landlord of 35 Fountain Street, IVG, carried out a refurbishment of the building in 2013, which included the creation of a ground floor amenity space – the Tenant Hub – and a sizeable bike store. Anthony Bull-Diamond, of IVG, said: ‘We worked very closely with and wanted to understand exactly what they required from 35 Fountain Street. We are delighted that they really valued the high quality specification but also the amenity space we worked hard to create in the form of our tenant hub, cafe facility and cycle store.’

DSC_4008The ground floor facilities are indeed impressive, but (with absolutely no offence meant) it is the floors above that we’ve really come to see. We are joined by OBI’s James Scott, who is only too happy to show off the scheme, which has already received plaudits from the likes of the Mail Online, the Mirror and the Manchester Evening News – even being described as one of the coolest offices in Britain. Our appetites are whetted.

James, however, is clearly not fazed by such pressure. ‘We’ve been able to place 116 people on each of the floors, and these are divided into teams,’ James explains. ‘We looked carefully at adjacencies and then, seeing as this is, we’ve introduced a road to run through each of the open plan floors.

‘Although we’ve used a fairly unusual desk layout for the teams – we didn’t want traditional straight runs of desks – we’ve been able to put in just as many seats. It’s very efficient. Everyone does have their own desk here – although they do move teams around.

‘There are now 550 people in Fountain Street – which could rise to 650 as they’ve recently taken the first floor as well.’

Although the forward-thinking desk layout and efficiencies are incredibly impressive, we don’t think this is what has attracted our national press to the scheme. ‘We’ve come up with a different theme for each floor,’ James grins. ‘We put ourselves in the customer’s shoes. We thought about all the amazing places you could go to when you hire a car. We had a bit of fun.

‘On one floor we’ve got ‘cars from movies’ – where we’ve got a Knight Rider room, a Transformers room and a Back to the Future room; we’ve got a ‘metropolitan’ theme on another of the floors – featuring all the cool things you might see when driving through the city; we’ve got a ‘road trip’ theme on another of the floors – which includes Route 66 and a shady motel room. It really does look like a seedy motel as well!’

James tells us that the motel room even comes with a ‘Vacancy/No Vacancy’ sign to show whether it is occupied or not.

‘The top floor has a coast road theme,’ James continues. ‘This is where the restaurant is, which then transforms into a beach scene.’

This all sounds amazing – and we can’t wait to start the guided tour, but before we do we ask James where the inspiration behind the themes came from. ‘I believe that you have to improve on your last job. Every job is different and every client is different. A lot of people replicate things – same furniture, same carpet etc. Every job that we do should be bespoke for that client. I’d like to think that it’s because of our enthusiasm that clients are willing to come on that journey with us.

DSC_3684‘We had done some space planning with in the past – for their old building – but I think it was our work for that really swung it for us. We showed the client here a lot of design work and a lot of visuals – and it was then that they bought into our ideas. They knew what they were getting – although some of it was a real surprise! After all, we have designed 40 bespoke meeting rooms here!’

James tells us that 35 Fountain Street is now home to support staff. ‘Most of the staff here are between 22-35 years old and the culture and methodology is different from their call centre staff. There is a lot of competition in Manchester right now for the best tech staff. A lot of firms are looking to attract and this generation of tech workers want the right space and the right surroundings.’

‘The top floor has a coast road theme,’ James continues. ‘This is where the restaurant is, which then transforms into a beach scene.’

Standard simply isn’t good enough any more – and the space isn’t standard in any way. As well as 40 one-off, bespoke meeting rooms, it includes a cool ‘open-air’ cinema and rooftop beach, a games room, an indoor park and no less than 90 flat screen TVs. Then there are pool tables, swings and a drive-in style diner.

This is all about energising people, about giving them the drive to fulfil themselves and attracting the best this city has to offer. And to fuel the team through the working day, there are free breakfasts, an all-day salad bar and a Starbucks.

Each floor features incredible, large format graphics and has its own bright and brilliant colour scheme – well you surely can’t have been expecting muted greys and blues? Each of the main ‘working’ floors features the team clusters of desks at their heart, with those amazing aforementioned meeting rooms, tea points and breakout spaces lining the periphery. And, walking through the floors, you really are taken on a journey – from Las Vegas to Tokyo, from Times Square back to Manchester. ‘We sat down with the client here and talked about how the space can really bring everyone together,’ James considers. ‘They’d never really had that – and I think it’s incredibly important. It can have a massive impact on staff morale.’

We’ve saved the very best until last. At the top of the building we find the staff restaurant. ‘We did quite a lot of work on this space,’ James reveals. ‘We changed the ceilings in here and added a stage so they can hold town hall meetings or can host events in the evening.’

This is only the start of it however. As we mentioned a little earlier, the theme here is the beach, with the server transformed into a Caribbean beach hut, complete with dry grass roof and accompanied by hammock-like swing seats. The main dining space is bright and flexible, with views out across the city. Moving through we find the daddy of all pool tables. ‘I really wanted this,’ James tells us we admire the amazing table, which is carved out of a Mustang. ‘It had to be a Mustang – and although it was very expensive and took 16 weeks to make, I think it’s worth it.’

We couldn’t agree more. If, as James alluded to, the differentiator is the working space for the young tech brigade, then Manchester’s next gen should be heading to Fountain Street in their droves.