pro-manchester’s Property & Regeneration Lunch welcomed the sector’s movers and shakers to Manchester Central to discuss the current economic boom our region is benefitting from.
The event, which was hosted by Property and Regeneration committee co-chair, Heather Gray – business development manager at Bruntwood, brought together two panels. The first of which discussed placemaking in Greater Manchester with Jon Sawyer, Manchester City Council; Suzanne Benson, Trowers & Hamlins and fellow co-chair of the Property and Regeneration committee; Andrew Coles, Aviva Investments and Helen White, Affinity Living.
Experts on our panel discussed the city’s expansion, including the speed of growth our region is currently facing. As a region growing ten times faster than anywhere else nationally, Helen White is an advocate of its success: “We’re not just experiencing peppering of a few cranes in the city, it’s a complete domination. It’s a very vibrant and exciting time to be part of the city, but it’s also important to remember that community is hugely important to the people of Manchester. It is therefore vital that we give it consideration when creating residential and commercial buildings. You can have amazing spaces that look great and have all the technology you’d ever want, but they’re still soulless.”
Suzanne Benson, head of Trowers and Hamlin’s Manchester office discussed the company’s recent ‘Real Value Report’, which looked at what people actually value in communities. “The report found that there was strong evidence that developments that create societal value can produce higher levels of financial return. These values need to be discussed at the early stages of the development process in order to create stronger, cleaner communities.”
This community aspect of property development sparked a conversation about Manchester city centre’s lack of green spaces. Will developers start to prioritise this? As Director of Housing and Residential Growth, Jon Sawyer has Manchester becoming a zero-carbon city by 2038 high on his agenda. Jon discussed having an open door for businesses on this subject, asking delegates to come forward with ideas on how the Council and businesses can work together to achieve this hugely important target. “The Northern Gateway Development is set to create 15,000 homes,” says Jon. “It’s a large-scale project where we are pushing sustainability at the forefront of everything we’re doing in the development process. Affordability is also high on our agenda and hugely important, but if we aren’t creating these green spaces when we create these developments, then there isn’t that same sense of community.”
It would seem that developers are starting to listen to experts about the importance of implementing green spaces into large developments. Reducing our carbon footprint also means trying to reduce the amount of energy that is consumed when creating these new developments. With this, we are seeing more and more buildings being repurposed and given new life.
Andrew Coles is a retail and leisure focused Senior Asset Manager at Aviva Investors. “Manchester is still a growing city, with the living and working population increasing year-on-year. Retail vacancies will come up, but this gives us great opportunities to change those buildings’ usage. “A great example of this is The Corn Exchange. While the Triangle value was falling off a cliff, by repositioning it, it’s a busy, thriving hub. I believe Manchester will fare better than the vast majority of the country in the coming years.”
Panel two, discussing commercial real estate, consisted of Chris Oglesby, CEO – Bruntwood; Chris Baguley, Commercial Director – Together and Steve Gillingham, Partner & National Head of Public Sector at Rider Levett Bucknall. Chris Oglesby shared some fascinating insights, discussing how Bruntwood has shifted from its traditional refurb schemes: “The market has got very heated, so we don’t see any value in acquisitions at present. We’re repurposing a lot of our already existing buildings, seeing a huge trend in co-working spaces.”
Chris Baguley, commercial director at Together sees huge excitement in his clients’ projects at present. A multitude of them are currently repurposing their assets: “For many years now, I have worked on the funding of office blocks, but it’s exciting to see how people are taking a previously tired building and converting it into something quite special. There are people on a much smaller scale than Bruntwood that we’re funding and it’s an area that’s really exciting at the moment.”
So, what has driven the economic boom Manchester is currently benefitting from?
Steve Gillingham has over 25 years’ experience as a chartered surveyor and believes it’s the injection of inward investment: “As a city, Manchester has an environment that welcomes inward investment ahead of anyone in the UK. It’s has grabbed more than its market share for a regional city and that has to be down to the huge benefits of being in the north, which comes down to cost and talent. The organisations that fund infrastructure need to ensure we can get transport connections right. Between seven and ten million people work within 45 mins of the city and they’re really hard to reach. We need to improve this, so we can do business and improve the economy for the whole region.”
pro-manchester is the largest business development organisation in the Northwest. They represent the business community across the region and support growth and development to promote the North as the place to do business. For more details call 0161 833 0964 or email firstname.lastname@example.org