Blog post: Tech City - From Dickens to Digital

Shoreditch’s origins began from the phrase ‘Sewerditch’ due to its position outside the city walls – you can guess what that implies – and it was exactly that, outside of the city, for much longer than it took for the plumbing to improve.

Highlighted to the world through numerous novels such as Oliver Twist, even in the second half of the century it was still associated with relative poverty, which makes it all the more surprising that it is now at the forefront of London’s most modern and profitable industries.  

Ever since we started renting and selling commercial property in Shoreditch and its surrounding areas in 1987, we have sold to an eclectic range of businesses but there has been a tendency to attract those from the TMT sector (Technology, Media and Telecommunications). The area now known as Tech City or “Silicon Roundabout”, due to Old Street roundabout at its heart, is often compared to Silicon Valley in California as the place to live, work and socialise for the young and energetic in the world of creative industries. 

Initially drawn by cheap rents and an artistic culture, the companies that came here from the 1980’s now form its infrastructure and are a key part to its dynamism. The typical requirements come from established agencies and companies with between 15 and 30 employees all looking in the popular Shoreditch Triangle or “Silicon Roundabout” in refurbished warehouse conversions. In terms of office locations Shoreditch and East London provides exciting and creative studio offices at better prices than the West End comparisons.

Arguably the community feel of East London has also been a draw as companies sit side by side with like-minded companies and colleagues, but the media’s focus on Tech City and the government pledges to invest in the area has led more established companies to move this way. For many what was once a trendy location for start-ups has now become a real reflection of “Silicon Valley” as much larger web based corporations such as Yammer and Mind Candy now occupy office space in excess of 20,000 sq ft.

The relocation of larger companies has led to an increased flow of investment into the area, which in turn has led to new developments and refurbishments being visible on every street. The push now is for landlords to create larger floor plates as opposed to smaller studio offices, to benefit from rising rents brought about by the increased demand for the area from the more established TMT companies looking for the open plan, trendy working environments. Brett Sullings, from Stirling Ackroyd’s Commercial department, says: “Commercial demand in the area is exceptionally high, but especially for floor plates in excess of 5,000 sq ft, and from companies who are escaping high West End rents.”

For many it is a tragedy that the days are gone when artists, fashionistas and designers took shelter within the Victorian warehouses that fill the streets of Shoreditch paying rents that barely hit the teens per sq ft. On the other hand investment in the area is creating a wealth of jobs, the development was needed as the commercial property market here is considerably more active than in the low point of the recession, and it is certainly unsurprising given what we are seeing in other outskirts of the capital. Smaller companies are likely to move with the growth and stretch further east into the fantastic commercial opportunities of Hackney and East London. Although it would be a shame to see the heart and soul of Shoreditch fade, it is unlikely that the village feel will disappear whilst its community continues to support the independent retailers, designers, galleries, bars and restaurants that have given it its personality. 

Brett Sullings, Stirling Ackroyd Commercial