An iconic Hull city centre building which has been transformed into a modern business workspace following a recent £1.6m refurbishment is a perfect place for companies to base their staff in the new flexible working era, its owner says.

The former HSBC building on Whitefriargate is already home to The 55 Group, which bought the building last year with a vision of not only basing its own companies there, but to also create a new environment for other businesses and their staff to thrive in.

Including its own members bar and large break out areas, it has been designed to provide flexible office space and offer communal co-working spaces to encourage people to collaborate professionally and socialise together.

The 1879 building is home to Hotham’s Gin School and a recently opened Members Bar, Bar 55, which is in the vaults of the former bank. A rooftop bar is also planned to open next year.

The 55 Group, a Hull-based procurement, construction built environment software specialist, recently completed its own relocation onto the ground and first floors. It has 59 members of staff, with between 25 and 30 in office on a typical day, and others working remotely across the UK.

Now, Gerard Toplass, group chief executive officer, says remaining spaces on the second, third and fourth floors are available, with space flexible to meet the needs of businesses or individuals who want to be part of the ’55 community.’

“What we have tried to create here, and what we think we have achieved, is a space which provides all that a high-tech business needs, including great connectivity, but also crucially a place where people from many different businesses can collaborate professionally and socialise as friends,” he said.

The development has space for around 120 desks in total, and spaces on the second, third and fourth floor can accommodate individuals, or be split into offices for between five and 20 people.

“We’ve created a great vibe in here already and that will only be enhanced as more people join us,” added Mr Toplass.

“We really wanted to create a perfect place for the younger working population to be based. Since the pandemic many young people have been left largely working from home, and whilst that is ok for people with large homes and gardens, for many it has been difficult because they have lacked that social interaction, and learning from working alongside others.

“With our flexible co-working concept, businesses can still enjoy the savings which come with not having a full office, but have the opportunity to purchase a desk in 55 Whitefriargate where their employees can benefit from being part of a creative environment and being part of the 55 community.

“It could be, for example, ideal for a business in London employing people in Hull to work from the desk in 55 Whitefriargate a number of days a week.  It’s offers a much less expensive alternative than asking employees to travel, and results in happier employees than asking them to constantly work alone from home.”

Remaining spaces now available on second, third and fourth floors

The remaining spaces in 55 Whitefrairgate are being marketed by Garness Jones, and agency director Paul White says he expects them to be filled early in the New Year.

“Gerard and his team deserve huge credit for taking on this historic building and breathing new life into it for the future,” he said.

“It is in an area of the city which is a focus for regeneration, which only works when you have people living, working and socialising in the location.

“This development really does fill a gap in the market in Hull and it is a concept which we feel reflects the way the market will move. The days of simply filling a building with characterless office spaces are long gone.

“The focus now is very much on making the office environment somewhere people want to be and somewhere where they can also relax and unwind, as well as getting on with their work. That is what has been achieved here and we expect demand to be high for the remaining spaces available.”

Mr Toplass said he was thrilled with the outcome of the project, and the support from Hull City Council, with a £711,000 grant from the Humber High Street Challenge Fund helping the development.

“We’re not developers, we are business people, but this was something we passionately wanted to do,” he said.

“It was a little bit worrying as the sale went through as the country went into lockdown back in March 2020, but thankfully our industry come through it the past 18 months strongly, we have grown as a business also and so badly needed the extra space. On top of all that, we’ve been able to create something new for Hull.

“We’ve been superbly supported by Hull City Council as they wanted to see this historic building brought back into use.  The challenge now is to fill it, which I am sure we will.”