Hillview Real Estate completed the refurbishment of Lawnswood House in Leeds

10 March 2023

The Yorkshire Post, By Lizzie Murphy

March 2023

First look inside former Yorkshire customs offices where ‘secret’ government work took place as new owner transforms building.

Former Yorkshire customs offices where ‘secret’ government work took place has undergone a £3.5m transformation.

Hillview Real Estate, the UK regional office investor, has spent a year refurbishing the 36,394 sq ft Lawnswood House, formerly known as Peter Bennett House, in Leeds.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Dom Ketteringham, asset manager at Hillview Real Estate, said: “The office was built for HMRC in 1994 and their specification was, understandably, privacy so it was very dark – there wasn’t a lot of natural daylight.
“We knew they were moving into the city centre so we saw that as an opportunity to get the whole building back and do a proper job on it.”

According to the government’s website, the building was used as a regional customs office, but Mr Ketteringham said it was a very private operation.
“Staff on the entire floor had to turn their computers off when we came in,” he said. “They never gave anything away. We had to wait until they’d moved out before we could show the contractors round.”
One of Hillview’s main priorities was to flood the building with natural daylight by introducing oversized windows and opening up the previously small reception area.

A number of post-covid design features were also introduced throughout the building, including touch-free taps and automatic flushing toilets.

An efficient variable refrigerant flow heating and cooling system was installed, which pulls in fresh air from outside and electric car charging points were added to the car park.
Working with local contractors, recycled materials were used where possible and the building includes showers, changing rooms and an indoor bike store, located in a large room where HMRC used to store its files.
The refurbished building provides office space from 4,351 sq ft at a quoting rent of £22/sq ft.

Nadav Livni, fund manager and founder of Hillview Group, said there had been a steady flow of enquiries in the refurbished building.

“This has been the first large scale project that we’ve done post-covid where we’ve included all of the lessons learned to bring it to what we consider today to be best in class,” he said.
He added: “Growth in the office market is coming from sectors that might not have been as active five years ago, such as life sciences, energy companies, technology companies etc.”

Hillview acquired the Lawnswood Business Park in a £26.5m deal in December 2018 for Hillview Partners Property Fund II.
The business park, which has eight buildings, is located in North Leeds and provides around 150,000 sq ft of office space.

The park is 96 per cent let, excluding Lawnswood House, with tenants including Brenntag, Equinti, Handelsbanken and Aramak and Wizu Workspace.
Hillview made its first foray into the Leeds office market in 2017 with the £6.6m purchase of Sovereign House, a grade II listed building in the city centre, which was built in 1862 for the Bank of England.

The company also owns nearby 76 Wellington Street, which it acquired for £12.6m last year.

Mr Livni said: “Over the next decade there will be a lot of occupational demand in Leeds as the city benefits from both the government’s levelling up agenda and the post-Brexit pivot to local manufacturing.”