Central Square – One Month On…

Posted by Philip Jardine on
It is perhaps too early to fully reflect, learn and absorb the lessons from Blake Morgan's 'generational' office move from Bradley Court (our home in Cardiff since 1989) to the development site now known as Central Square. But after just one month, you do start to understand better the journey you have been on and the process that has brought us to this most wonderful place.

If you stay anywhere for too long it becomes familiar and comfortable and despite its inadequacies (of which you are very aware) you develop a certain reluctance to change and a certain inertia that ultimately can become disabling in many ways. Park Place had become that place.

So about three years ago we realised that a once in a generation challenge was being forced on us. Decisions had to be taken as to how and where we took forward the business of the firm, not so much for the existing leadership of the firm but the younger people and the future  generations of lawyers that would ply their trade within what soon became Blake Morgan.

We were presented with a series of excellent opportunities in and around Cardiff all of which had merits and also demerits – but what was right for us and could we find a solution on which we all agreed?  Parking v Public Transport, Open Plan v Offices, Access, Out of town v the Bay v the City and if the latter where exactly was right for us as a growing, ambitious firm?

The easy choice would have been to stay put, smarten up the status quo and preserve the familiar.

However, gradually it became obvious that we were in the mood for a change – this was not about the past or the present. It was about the future and that which lay beyond the working lives of those of us who had lived a privileged existence in Park Place for the past 27 years!

So what should the future look like? We could only guess and with the valuable guidance and support of those around us we began to form a clearer and clearer vision that itself informed our decisions and dictated our actions.

Paul McCarthy of Rightacres, Neil Hanratty and the elected members of Cardiff Council including Russell Goodway and latterly the leader Phil Bale (whose moral support was greatly appreciated), the local authority and our trusted designers at Office Visions were right beside us. They all helped us shape and implement a vision for something new and very different for a law firm that owes its antecedents to those 19th Century legal pioneers from the Valleys - Walter Morgan and Sir Gerald Bruce.

Gradually we began to see a very different place to Bradley Court and more importantly a new and more exciting way of working and caring for our valuable clients. The first reaction once that became clearer – fear! Nobody likes change not least lawyers. But when you know something is right, fears have to be confronted - encouragingly as the vision was shared the fears were overcome and we became more and more certain that Central Square was the place for Blake Morgan to be located as the next chapter in our history began to unfold.

So the vision became a reality and the plans were shared, evolved and became visible – excitement began to grow and whilst we decommissioned our old office and 75% of the paper there, we began to prepare ourselves for a new way of working, a new mind-set and a new future. A different future. A better future.

It's good to sacrifice sacred cows sometimes – at worst it is cathartic and at best its transformational and the latter has proved to be so. Sacred cows were placed on the altar one by one.

Tribute has to be paid to our loyal and dedicated team of logistics, HR, admin and IT staff - people who worked tirelessly to translate the vision into reality – the sheer slog of effort needed to move us from A to B. The partnership we forged with Rightacres and the sense of working towards the same goal has been invaluable and made what could have been a nightmare a dream come true.

Every one of our near 200 people bought into the vision heart and soul. Through sheer will power and no little enthusiasm, they were all determined to make this move work! Inspiration is a word that can be used too frequently but the collective inspiration garnered from our entire office in Cardiff and many colleagues outside of the City propelled us to March 14th 2016 and day one in Central Square. And what a day it was! I have never heard so many people praising a building all at once and rightly so.

There's more to come. We look forward to welcoming the many other occupiers in the in this fantastic development as well as our new neighbours, the BBC, but right now we are enjoying something very special and for us for a while at least, unique.

Was it right to embrace open plan? Would it be too noisy? What about those confidential conversations all lawyers must have? Were there enough spaces to gain privacy? Would we get on together – 180 people in the same space! Resoundingly positive cries from everyone almost every day. Have there been teething problems? Well yes, but has it spoilt the fun? Not a bit.

It is a privilege to come to work in this very special place and enjoy the company of all our colleagues in a way that has been hitherto impossible while we sojourned on four floors of what was a (very nice) rabbit warren. No more offices. No more rooms. Removing the physical barriers. Creating social spaces to interact with each other – all good, very good!

It has been a privilege to show guests around, the amazing views of Cardiff in every direction – the City now and fascinatingly a glimpse of what is to come and not just that huge hole in the ground that was once the Central Bus Station and will soon be BBC Cymru Wales new HQ.

Cardiff is changing fast. A fantastic city. A great place to visit, to live and work. To be a part of that changing landscape is an honour. To sit literally on top of possibly the most exciting development this city has seen in at least a generation and of course, 50 yards away…the Principality Stadium, the mighty Taff and just behind us Cardiff Central Railway Station. Already a lifeline for many of our partners and staff who have now abandoned their cars and embraced the train – when the Metro comes in all its fullness (and please let that be soon) yet more transformation will follow and the way we live will change as well as where we work.

It's only been a month. The best is yet to come but for now we're loving it!

About the Author

Photograph of Philip Jardine

Phil is a Partner and Head of Real Estate in Wales, the Thames Valley and London. He has experience of large-scale public and private development work, joint ventures, regeneration projects and property transactions particularly relating to the governmental, health and education sectors.

Philip Jardine
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029 2068 6111

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