Architects draw up creative design hub in Womanby Street

Gaunt Francis Architects is relocating its Welsh design studios in Cardiff to fully occupy a refurbished five-storey office building in Womanby Street in the heart of the city centre. Kames Capital purchased 23 Womanby Street in 2018 as part of a portfolio of properties located in and around Womanby Street. It has since embarked on a programme of refurbishment works to upgrade the portfolio, which is part of an area where Cardiff Council has aspirations to establish a creative and musical quarter.

The letting to Gaunt Francis was negotiated by joint agents Cooke & Arkwright and Savills, with Kames Capital’s asset managers, V7 Asset Management. Gaunt Francis was represented by Huw Thomas Property Consultancy in the deal.

The building at 23 Womanby Street has morphed through a number of uses during its lifetime. It was originally built as a warehouse on the dockside bordering what is now Westgate Street. Once the docks were removed it became The Toucan nightclub and then was eventually converted to offices. 

Chris Munday of Kames Capital said, “The property was in need of renovation and updating when we acquired it, but we could see its potential and that of the surrounding area. It is rewarding to see it now fully utilised as an architectural practice and we are sure Gaunt Francis will be a welcome addition to the creative output here. 

“We look forward to continuing our programme of refurbishment on the other buildings in the portfolio and making a contribution to the enhancement of this increasingly sought-after creative and musical district.”

Gaunt Francis Architects, which has offices in Cardiff and London, acquired the lease in Womanby Street after outgrowing its former offices in Greyfriars Road. The practice has undergone a period of rapid expansion and now comprises more than 50 staff.

Alan Francis, Director at Gaunt Francis said,

“We were looking for good quality accommodation in Cardiff city centre with a slightly less corporate feel. We were drawn to the strong architectural style and character of the property which reflects our role as a creative commercial design studio. Another important aspect was the large, well proportioned windows which provide a generous amount of natural light. 

“Womanby Street is one of the oldest streets in Cardiff with a colourful historical background and a great location close to the Principality Stadium, Cardiff Castle and St Mary Street. In the longer term our intention is to convert the rooftop area into a terrace garden to extend our creative space and offer excellent views over the city.” 

In a further development in the immediate vicinity, Gaunt Francis have been appointed architects on an ambitious project to redevelop two historic buildings on nearby Westgate Street. The old Post Office and adjoining County Court buildings next to the Principality Stadium will be extended and transformed into a 175 bedroom luxury hotel in a JV between the Welsh Rugby Union, Legal & General and Rightacres. Work is expected to commence in June 2019 subject to planning consent.