CEO Michael Dong: Thought Leadership
I’ve had a busy few weeks lately, and Sunday afternoons tend to be a good time to reflect on the recent happenings. It seems like Sunday afternoons were designed for this (after family time of course!)
Property Disrupters Round Table
Towards the end of October, I attended the Property Disruptors Round Table breakfast; This event brought together all the disrupters and entrepreneurs across the North West, giving us a chance to learn about industry movements from each other and bounce ideas around. It was clear to see, in terms of creating the bigger picture, that it can be easier to go bigger than smaller; By that, I refer to placemaking, which encapsulates a huge amount of resources and funding.
Yet, because of the contribution to society and being a part of ‘the bigger picture’, it can be easier to secure funding for a city-changing placemaking scheme rather than a smaller scale social-housing development. Another interesting point is the relatively slow change within the property industry. Compared to other industries, home building on both large and small scale, has yet to radically change. Construction as a whole is much the same as it was decades ago overall – but there are a variety of new technologies and strategies that are disrupting this old industry. A typical example, and one that has been gradually gaining traction, is modular build; It is being deployed in more southern parts of the UK, and the benefits stack up tenfold; Offering the construction of homes in a controlled environment off-site offers many benefits across quality control, speed of construction and maintenance. At the moment, we don’t have the scale of production in the North of the UK – yet.
But as we continue to invest in the future of the Northern Powerhouse, we will inevitably reap the exponential growth. It was a really illuminating breakfast networking event to attend, and it reminds me of the value these opportunities these offer.
Place North West’s Local Authorities Question Time
Continuing along a similar vein, I attended, along with our Development Director James Alderson, ‘Place North West’s Local Authorities Question Time’ later on that week; For this event, Greater Manchester’s civic leaders faced tough questions on the city region’s track record including housing, transport and ongoing GMSF delays. We struck a cord with a number of the “One Things” that were raised by each panelist, highlighting what they believe should be the city’s priority; Savills director Jeremy Hinds said “focus should not just be on the city centre, with major opportunities to build on the diverse nature of Greater Manchester’s towns”. In our opinion, never a truer word was spoken. Whilst the city centre is indeed “hot property”, for the bigger and better picture of placemaking, it is not ideal.
Land, as ever, is of a premium resulting in developments going higher with reduced space rather than lower and spread out, which is not aways conducive for social-value. To ensure a vibrant economy, good politics are vital. Both the public and private sectors do operate differently, but if we forget the professional agendas for the moment, we are all striving to deliver economic and social value.
For Greater Manchester to truly thrive and flourish, it’s vital that all parties understand each other to reach the common ground. Looking to GM, the areas outside of the city center are ripe for regeneration, which in turn will drive more activity overall. The transport infrastructure is integral to this vision. As Mayor Andy Burnham said, “transport, with a “London-style transport system with reformed buses, Greater Manchester Rail, and high-quality cycling and walking networks” are the key to success, ensuring these areas still provide excellent links to the city center.
As an example, Burnham recently launched the Stockport Mayoral Development Corporation, the first of its kind with the aim to focus on the town centre’s ambitious regeneration – including a new urban village with up to 3500 new homes and up to 1 million sq. foot of employment floorspace. It’s great to see that we, as a company, are on the same track, following our placemaking goals – our vision to revitalize town centres is at one with Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham. Indeed, stay tuned for updates in the coming weeks, we have some extremely exciting news to reveal!