Wearable technology, video calls and microwave meals are just three things Marty McFly and Doc Brown predicted would be a part of everyday life in 2015.
But what if, on a more boring day at Universal Studios, Back To The Future’s director Robert Zemeckis had wondered how the future of commercial real estate would look in 2015.
Yeah, alright, he was never going to do that as he had far more interesting things to occupy himself. But, stick with me through this tortured attempt to make reference to the best film trilogy of all time.
Taking a look at the headlines on PropertyWeek.com over the past few months, you’d be forgiven for thinking we’d got our own Delorean and travelled back to the 80s to dredge up some stories of yesteryear. But, no, the 80s are not only back on the summer music festival circuit, they’re back in the commercial property world too.
To be fair, you could have read almost exactly the same headlines 30 years ago. Nothing’s really changed. The old bruiser Desmond Bloom is floating another company, and Sir Stuart Lipton is moving in on a huge scheme. As one of my fellow property has-beens put it to me yesterday afternoon: “Hang on a minute, did I wake up back in the 80s? Bloom is back, again? Lipton is still telling developers how to build things?
I had something of a reincarnation myself last year, returning to Property Week after nigh on 20 years away writing about anything other than property. And when I came back I soon realised nothing had really changed. All my old contacts were still in the game, only with much more senior jobs.
I knew Toby Courtauld when he was a young man with great promise at MEPC. Now he’s one of the most successful people in property, at the helm of Great Portland Estates. I remember when Unite opened its very first student accommodation block in Bristol, and now Mark Allan runs the biggest student beds group in the UK.
For goodness sake, I remember when Hammerson was a big office developer and the chief executive of Land Securities, Sir Peter Hunt, liked nothing more than a game of darts in his local. I remember when Lipton, Bloom, and others like Godfrey Bradman and Raymond Mould, dominated the pages of Property Week when they were making their first comebacks. Now all four are on comebacks three, four, or even five in Bloom’s case.
So what’s going on? Why are we going through a period where the old boys (and, sadly, it was pretty much all boys back then) are stealing the headlines. Perhaps it has something to do with experience. These people have been through more recessions than the young guns have had glasses of champagne at MIPIM. And, as we come out of tough times the property world is looking for stability, some old heads with experience.
Lipton, Bloom, Bradman and Mould also invented some of the mistakes of the past, so let’s hope they can show the next generation of property professionals how not to invent new ones.