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Real estate industry needs smarter model than ‘build it and they’ll come’


Build it and they'll come: Kevin Costner in the aspirational Field of Dreams

Build it and they'll come: Kevin Costner in the aspirational Field of Dreams

Build it and they'll come: Kevin Costner in the aspirational Field of Dreams

The need for creativity in commercial property markets has never been greater, and we will have to find a fresh approach to the “build it and they will come mindset.”

That’s according to Kildare chartered surveyor, Chris Kane, whose book, “Where is my office? - Reimagining the Workplace for the 21st Century” has been published.

Chris Kane’s views are formed by over 30 years’ experience in property, as a founding partner at JLW Corporate Real Estate in London, Vice President of International Real Estate for the Walt Disney Company and Head of Corporate Real Estate at the BBC.

Chris Kane believes that the old models of property development are too narrowly focused and don’t pay enough attention to the occupiers needs. The specialised nature of the profession where agents concentrate on specific areas such as offices or retail and not enough dialogue between those areas and other professions is contributing to a lack of big picture thinking in development. I chatted with Mr Kane, to hear more:

According to Mr. Kane, technology is driving changes in the demand for property and the industry is not reacting quickly enough. The internet has changed retailing and the ability to work remotely. There are other forces such as a growing preference to rent one’s home and increasing demand for investors/landlords to take an interest in their tenant’s business rather than just collecting rent.

Mr Kane’s practical introduction to big picture thinking was in his role at Disney which saw him managing 80 Disney headquarters. The Disneyland Paris theme park was not generating sufficient footfall and he worked in developing the new town of Marne la Vallée beside the park. This created homes, a shopping centre, and a new business location all initially anchored with Disney tenancies.

Charged with transforming the BBC’s property portfolio, Mr Kane believed that the synergies that worked in Paris could be replicated. The process created Media City in Salford was initially anchored by the BBC, ITV and a university and there are now 30,000 people working on the site, many in creative industries. This, Mr Kane tells me was a good solution for the BBC, a good property development result, and a great result for the community.

Meanwhile in London, following the move of 2,500 staff to Manchester, 1,500 staff moved to Broadcasting House in central London where Mr Kane oversaw a £1bn redevelopment.

At that stage, the BBC held a 35 acre estate at White City, in west London. The property was offered on a traditional straight sale basis, which produced an offer of £90m, but a joint-venture deal with Stanhope, produced £200m. Again the strategy was to collaborate with the adjoining Imperial College in a total redevelopment of 60 acres, anchored by the university, the BBC and ITV, together with the nearby Westfield Shopping Centre. The synthesis of the university, creative industries and shopping soon attracted high-end residential redevelopment and global corporations and saw the accelerated redevelopment of a swathe of a depressed area of London.

His book explains his smart value theory where he sees commercial real estate as not just a cost, but as a creator of value for both the occupier and society. He advocates a greater focus on what he terms people aspects and not just the building, and for greater input from occupiers and not just developers, architects and planners.

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This thought-provoking book is aptly timed as our markets experience rapid disruption.

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