After a tumultuous 2020, property’s leading figures share their hopes and expectations for 2021 as the year gets off to a rocky start with yet another lockdown.
Managing partner, Orchard Street Investment Management
I must admit I thought 2020 would be better than 2019. I’m now convinced 2021 will be better than 2020, and surely with the US election behind us, Brexit done and a vaccine (or three) being rolled out, that must be true.
Established trends in our market have been accelerated by Covid. That said, a large majority of our retail spend is still in a physical shop and convenience-led retail works for many retailers. So maybe 2021 will be the year that some retail property bounces back.
Zoom is not a substitute for office-based collaboration, but with working from home now such a valid option, I suspect the best city-centre office locations will be fine, but I’m not convinced about secondary centres and office parks. Warehousing space seems highly likely to remain popular – and expensive.
My biggest hope is that Covid has changed our awareness of climate change; lockdown has reminded us what unpolluted skies look like and brought renewed focus to those of us responsible for the built environment. I hope this continues for the sake of future generations.
In the first two weeks of the pandemic, we saw consumer behaviour accelerate by five years. This led to a step-change in online spending; collective wellness – a greater community focus, increased loyalty to local, independent brands, a growing self-awareness on how our choices impact the environment, sustainability and each other; and a huge shift towards working from home. These changes are here to stay and will completely transform how we live our lives in 2021.
Many of these developments should have positive long-term outcomes, with stronger communities, better work/life balance and an ethical ethos running through consumers and brands. By the end of 2021, we will have a landscape that bears little resemblance to that with which we ended 2019.
Some things about this year just gone we will never want to repeat, but from the trash-can fire of 2020 we should be able to salvage a new, more sustainable reality that sees innovation rewarded, spaces evolve to better reflect their uses and communities revitalised.
At the heart of all of this is data. Many businesses have the data, but do not recognise the value accurate implementation of it can have. This will be the year that good businesses harness that information and move forward at the same pace as their customers. Perhaps for them, those sunlit uplands do await.
Chief executive, Donati Immobiliare Group
My hope is that 2021 will be a better year for the world than 2020. My expectation is that not much will change, unfortunately, at least not in the first half of the year.
That said, as governments ramp up public sector investment to stimulate economies, the construction industry will benefit from a strong boost that will carry on into 2022 and beyond. I think we can look forward to the sector’s rebirth.
Real estate will have a patchier performance: while the appeal of real assets for investors is at an all-time high (and this will remain true) all asset classes are not equal and logistics, income-bearing residential and flexible office will come out on top. Tech and sustainability will also be clear winners as companies across asset classes are increasingly aware that they need to innovate to stay ahead of the game.
Founding partner, Brunswick Property Partners
I am genuinely excited about 2021. My positive outlook stems from Akoya, our new London neighbourhood sustainable workplace venture, which we launched in 2020. We wouldn’t typically coincide launching a new venture with a pandemic, but Akoya is not a typical venture.
The pandemic has caused significant damage at a personal, company and country level. But Covid has highlighted that the daily commute to Central London on packed public transport is unsustainable in every respect. We did not predict the pandemic, but we had identified the move towards localism and Londoners’ desire to rebalance their home/working lives, something we witnessed at our Queens Park estate.
I expect Covid to accelerate the move towards localism and a more sustainable approach to the way we live and work. Sustainability is at the heart of Akoya, where we work in genuine partnership with local SMEs, communities and authorities to create truly balanced workplace environments. My intention is to roll out the strategy across London to demonstrate Akoya is a venture of its time.
Managing director and CEO, Mitsubishi Estate London
The last 12 months have been enormously challenging, but in time we will come to see 2020 as a year when we came together to overcome an unprecedented danger, and ensure we are better prepared to address future risks.
The speed with which vaccines have been produced is an amazing scientific achievement, and the prospect of normality returning as they are rolled out is hugely exciting.
The UK and world economies have been changed forever, but there is cause for much optimism about the recovery – not least in the opportunities to rebuild ‘green’, with sustainability and net-zero carbon targets at the forefront of growth. We expect these factors to be increasingly important in how the market evaluates schemes.
It has been strange to see London so empty this year, but people will return to the city centre and office life to embrace the social, leisure and productivity benefits it offers. London remains one of the world’s great commercial centres, and our confidence in its future has only increased.
There will be significant opportunities for high-quality properties that are well-located and have the best welfare protections in place.
Forecast for 2021: looking ahead with hope
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Forecast for 2021: looking ahead with hope (part 23)