The Mailbox

Initial Drivers

The Details

M7 Real Estate’s strategy was to revitalise the Mailbox as a premium
commercially-led, mixed use scheme. In a post covid world where some companies are downsizing or adding flexible coworking space into their hybrid strategies, it is hoped that the introduction of workspaces into retail centres like the Mailbox will help generate economic activity by increasing footfall to local businesses and create solutions to better support hybrid working.

M7re’s objective was to take this strategy and transform the ground floor of the iconic Mailbox building from 50,000 sq. ft of failing retail space, into state- of-the-art co-working space.

Following the acquisition in December 2019 by M7 Real Estates, Rhino Interiors Group was selected to work in close co-operation with Weedon Architects, and Cundalls Engineering Consultancy, to develop the interior scheme and deliver on a very compressed timescale.

Initially, Rhino were instructed to carry out the shell and floor works. This involved stripping 50,000 sq foot of the ground floor back to its shell to prepare for the full CAT A fit out, opening up the side of the building and incorporated curtain wall glazing to allow natural light into the space.

During the CAT A works, M7 Real Estate secured a tenant – flexible working operator IWG Spaces – to take the whole space. Thanks to the level of trust that had been built, M7re extended the contract to Rhino to include Cat A and B works to ensure seamless integration.

“Our trusted and pragmatic approach, plus the good working relationships with the other stakeholders involved, ensured efficiency and maintained cost certainty. It allowed our client to keep the project moving and onboarding their new tenant during the works meant they could move forward without running the risk of cost escalation and abortive works.”

 

Grant Clarke, Senior Projects Director, Rhino Interiors Group

Proposal

The architectural proposal for the basebuild design was driven by the Client’s requirement to revitalise the appeal of the space as a commercial offering and maximise the lettable area with a sustainable, efficient, and economical approach. As part of the sustainability agenda, the re-use of existing material was a priority. The former luxury mall fabric and finishes were largely retained and reused to create a central Business Hub zone and Winter Garden breakout space. Natural light was introduced into the new deep plan office space by removing back-of-house service areas and dividing walls and installing full height curtain walling along the north elevation.

Key challenges

The fire strategy was a particular challenge. We had to accommodate the requirements resulting from the change in use, yet maintain the visual connectivity to the live retail mall above through the existing atria, all whilst respecting significant elements of retained fabric. This called for extensive and detailed analysis by the Fire Engineer and pragmatic effective solutions from the whole design team.

The implementation of the Tenants brand guidelines was another challenge. The requirements arrived some way into the CAT A design development but the flexibility of the base-build proposal allowed us to accommodate the majority of these with very little abortive work.

With the end client being a shared office provider, they wanted the space as soon as possible. The tight timeline coupled with exiting structural challenges and mechanical and electrical high-level design presented us with challenges that had to be worked around. The height had to be maintained to keep the light coming through and we were also working within a live retail environment, so had to ensure there was minimal noise for other existing tenants in the building.

Getting all these elements right were crucial to minimise clashes and delays and ensure that we could deliver on time and on budget.

“We found Rhino Interiors to be first and foremost a highly professional, efficient, and collaborative team. Their willingness to be flexible and pragmatic during the Covid 19 pandemic was admirable and the commitment on site to getting the job done, to the best of their abilities and for the ultimate benefit of the Client and the Tenant was clearly evident. We very much felt like part of a fully integrated team and we really look forward to the opportunity to partner with them on future projects.”

– Stuart Curran, Principal Director. Weedon Architects

“Rhino were one of three companies during the tender process. The other two did not make the cut after initial review, due to failing to present knowledgably and as a team.

The general presentation indicated that Rhino Interiors Group would make a good delivery partner for the shell and floor works at level 1 Mailbox. A positive being the size and location as a “a regional contractor”. Two stage tendering experience and resources were required to deliver the 2nd stage tender. Rhino presented good knowledge and plans for delivering the second stage of the two stage tender process and demonstrated that thought had been given to how this would be managed at the Mailbox.

It was further noted that the team delivering the second stage would also actively be used to deliver the scheme on site, maintaining continuity and knowledge. This was a preferred solution than the use of the estimating and tendering team, who then hand over to the delivery team, which can then lead to a disconnect. Rhino presented various schemes where live environments had affected their construction methodologies and working strategies which supported their proposals for our scheme.”

– M7 Real Estate Project Team

The look & feel

The Spaces brand has a consistent look across all their sites and the furniture installed is a mix of American and European. The design incorporates a muted and sophisticated colour pallet, coupled with a wide array of indoor plants and stylish wooden furniture to create a welcoming and refreshing environment. Offering a variety of settings, such as individual working pods, office spaces for larger groups or companies, collaboration and break out areas, as well as an enclosed winter garden, there’s a great range of workspace to choose from.

The result

The resulting changes have seen the lettable area increase by 24,000 sqft. Following the base-build works, Rhino and Weedon’s continued to develop the scheme in order to integrate the CAT B requirements of flexible working operator IWG Spaces.

This was an incredibly complex project. But whilst the programme we worked to was incredibly tight, the entire project team right down to the subcontractors worked amazingly well to deliver this fantastic project. And we’re delighted to say, the client is thrilled with the results.

It’s an inspiring transformation the Mailbox, putting it front and centre in the Birmingham business scene.

Insights

Check out our insightful guides, ebooks, reports and more.

Whether you’re looking to modernise your work processes, move offices, or just need some specialist advice – we’re here to provide the very best for your business. Explore our library of resources and insights for expert advice.

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Ultimate Guide to Hybrid Working

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Full Report on Sickness at Work

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Read our u003cbru003eOffice Moveu003cbr/u003e Guide u0026 Checklist

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Whether you’re looking to modernise your work processes, move offices, or just need some specialist advice – we’re here to provide the very best for your business. Explore our library of resources and insights for expert advice.