Commercial Property Blog
All posts from: January 2012
Any homebuilder or developer would put together a new development design team and automatically include architects and lawyers but why not management specialists? The architects will design a good building but do not have to manage it. The lawyers will draft the lease, but will not necessarily get the service charge provisions right because, again, they do not have to manage the building!
So what can managers bring to the party? Their years of skill and service in knowing how the building will run; spot the areas that cannot be cleaned; spot the gaps in the leases that will cause issues at a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) at a later date; and make sure the space is serviceable and manageable.
Historically the developer wants the manager to give his or her services for free and merely compile a service charge budget and then the estate agents will come along and want that slashed to make it easier to sell the apartments. This is instead of utilising the manager’s skills in upselling their services, management and making the running of the building a virtue of the added value.
A truly enlightened developer will realise the benefit and the need of bringing the manager into the heart of the design team as early as possible. This is where they can gain value in the apartments and gain value in their sales. Along with making sure the running of the building can and will be smooth following completion.
Is this a pipe dream? No, I believe times are changing and the realism will come to the fore. Chainbow is positioning itself to lead this changing added value service.
Last week’s strategic leak previewing the government’s forthcoming Aviation White Paper generated predictable huffs of incredulity around ‘Boris Island’ – the proposed £50bn new airport in the Thames Estuary. Similar cloud bursts from Willie Walsh and co, promptly pledged that BA would not move from Heathrow should a new hub be constructed.
Aside from the obvious nonsense of ruling out a third runway at Heathrow in a review touted as considering ‘all the options’ or indeed having a transport secretary who’s very seat in the Commons depends on her opposition to it (Justine Greening is, let’s recall, MP for Putney), few have sought to really examine the wider significance this could have for London and the UK’s development industries
Manchester’s £600m Airport City – that will seek to combine a wealth of commercial space with a refurbished Northern airport is just a taste of what a new, world-leading hub could create. For a real glimpse of what we could create, its Incheon, South Korea’s third largest city, that we should gaze upon.
Incheon International Airport opened in 2001, replacing the older Gimpo International Airport, which now serves mostly local flights around the region. Like the proposed Boris Island, it’s built on reclaimed land, and is conveniently positioned on the coast.
The problem with airports however is this: unless they’re made of Lego and are built in the bath, there wil be a fair amount of displacement to nearby habitats, whether those of Tory voters or sea otters. Whatever is suggested and wherever it is proposed an opposition group is formed. This isn’t a problem that seems to affect our friends in the Far East though.
Back to reality though and where Incheon is significant is for two reasons: firstly, it shows that replacing an existing hub could work (it failed when tried in Japan and Canada), and secondly, it affirms the fact you can only have one hub.
The idea that we could tack another runway on to Stansted or Gatwick or expand Birmingham and stick everyone on a train to solve the UK’s air capacity issues is rubbish. The whole concept of a ‘hub’ airport is the ability for long-haul flights to operate frequently to a large number of destinations, and this relies on a bulk of passengers from ‘feeder’ flights that will often be on short-haul journeys.
Apart from the obvious question of funding – which could potentially be solved by the Chinese, who are currently in high-level talks with the UK Treasury around investing in our nuclear and rail infrastructure – the planning barriers and Britain’s reliance on so-called ‘democracy’ (for sea otters and everyone else) would provide the main blockages. The assertion last week that it could be complete within a decade is, sadly, such a large pile of tosh you could build an airport on it.
But when you look now across the Canary Wharf estate and see such a hive of activity before you, it highlights the opportunity that time offers for London to reclaim its standing on the ladder of international relevance.
Whatever personal politics people have over British aviation (which, let’s face it, depends on whether you chase West End girls or East End boys on a weekend and enjoy bumping into Philip Hammon and Justine Greening in the Richmond brand of Poundstretcher), everyone appreciates that all aspects of London’s market depend on its connectivity. Having a sustainable aviation strategy is therefore vital.
And while Boris reportedly supports a third Heathrow runway privately, and see the Estuary idea as a politically safe way of convincing voters that paving over Sipson is the ‘least bad option’, Norman Foster’s idea may present a few more opportunities for the British property market than people have given it credit for, particularly if a large-scale new development brings with it the opportunity for London to become Europe’s capital for finance, distribution and global transport. Wake me up when we get there.
Back in June of last year Google launched “Google Plus”, its latest foray into social media and a further attempt to build a rival to Facebook.
Initially Google Plus was only available for use by individuals only but in November it was opened up to companies and brands. Very rapidly a whole raft of familiar names and logos have begun to appear including a number of retail brands that would be on the “wanted” list of most retail developers and shopping centre owners, including : H&M, Hugo Boss, TopMan, Burberry and Puma.
Very soon after its launch it was reported that Google Plus had over 20 million users and high profile technology bloggers such as Robert Scoble were praising the new social media platform. More recent estimates have suggested that its use is growing at a phenomenal rate of around 625,000 new users per day and then on 19th January, as part of a quarterly fiancial report, Larry Page, CEO of Google said: “I am super excited about the growth of Android, Gmail, and Google+, which now has 90 million users globally.”
Until Google Plus was opened up to brands its users seemed to be mainly from the technology and creative sectors. This is changing as it is adopted by those in the mainstream, but so far there seems to be only a handful of property professionals actively using Google Plus. Along with our own page, Lambert Smith Hampton, Copping Joyce and IPINglobal also have pages.
There are also some familiar individuals: John Corey (currently number three on the Property Week Twitter 100), Antony Slumbers (number 20) and Andrew Waller (number 83) are some of those that I have found. There are more registered but not active.
So what is Google Plus?
It has been described it as “a cross between Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.” That’s not a bad description, but doesn’t give a full picture.
Being a Google product it has a certain familiarity to its look and feel and it takes some features from its other products, combining them with some clever new ideas that help users follow and view content that friends, colleagues and businesses have posted onto their own profile page.
Users can control what they want to see and what they want to be seen by using Google Plus’s “Circles” – groups of friends, professional contacts, businesses, etc. Security and privacy settings have been beefed-up since the PR disaster that was the launch of the ill-fated Google Buzz. An experience the world’s favourite search engine had clearly learnt from. One of its key features is the ease with which a range of images, videos and links to other web pages can be uploaded and shared.
If you have a Google account then getting onto Google Plus is just a click away as it uses any profile that a user has created as the starting point. Business owners can then add and manage separate pages for their enterprises or brands.
So why is this important? Well - mainly it’s because of who is behind it.
Google still occupies the dominant position in the search engine market and, as such, can have a massive impact on a business by driving web traffic and generating new business leads. It can also impact on a company’s public image by influencing what people can see, hear a watch about a company on line.
To stay one step ahead of its competitors and to retain its market position Google has, for some time, been looking at incorporating human recommendation into the online search process. As part of this process Google has introduced a “+1” button (similar to the Facebook “Like” button), which allows visitors to web pages and sites to recommend it to others, and can be found all around the web.
This process of human recommendation is core to Google Plus which allows users to “+1” and share posts, pictures, videos, blogs, brands that the come across. Each time someone does this you just know that somewhere a Google algorithm is making a note of it and gradually this feedback will impact the search engine rankings of the recommended website or page.
Or a high definition video to promote a new office property in the City fringe.
Or your company blog.
Google is also keen on fresh, regularly updated content and the reality is that by posting content on a Google Plus page you are doing so in the belly of the beast. This is Google and it is inconceivable to think that it will not index its own social media platform as a matter of priority when looking to calculate the relevance of online content.
Basically Google Plus is Google.
A further development has been the recent introduction of Google’s “Search Plus Your World” which, when a Google user is logged into their account, includes the recommendations of those individuals and organisations from the user’s Google Plus ‘circles’ within the results.
In addition to this, content from Google Plus pages is now increasingly appearing in regular Google searches. For example, a Google search for “Fox News” (see below or click here) and you will see the results for Google Plus and the latest news stories that have been posted there.
How long before other broadcasters and media outlets get in on the act?
How long before your competitor’s news releases start appearing on Google Plus too?
Sometime early last year I was asked by a client how they could best improve the return on investment for his website? My reply was simple: “Use social media to drive visits.” He took my advice and is now concentrating all his online PR effort on social media. My latest advice to him was to set up a Google Plus page.
It’s the same advice I would give anyone who is remotely interested in improving their online reputation.
I look forward to adding you to the circles on my Google Plus page.