It is remarkable how effectively 200 cans of spray paint can reinvent an uninspiring shopping street.

Susan Freeman

Susan Freeman

Congratulations to EcoWorld and Poplar HARCA for initiating the eye-catching makeover by The London Mural Company of Aberfeldy Street in London’s East End to help boost business post lockdown. The work, which apparently took over 600 litres of paint to complete, has introduced an exotic vibrancy to the area. It reminds me of the murals of Wynwood Walls in the regenerated fashion district of Miami.

The area went from decaying warehouses in the 70’s to become an urban blank canvas for famous artists from across the world. It started with one man’s vision for an open-air art gallery that later exploded into a neighbourhood of art appreciation, and a canvas for urban street art. So perhaps the Aberfeldy Steet project can be an inspiration to other lack lustre shopping streets looking to rediscover their identity and to inject a sense of fun and art.

In proptech news, British Land have announced their partnership with tenant experience provider Equiem to launch a new tenant engagement app which will be coming to their Broadgate campus in October. Broadgate, one of London’s largest pedestrianised areas, will be the first British Land campus to benefit from the partnership. Over 26,000 people are based at Broadgate, which usually attracts more than 19 million visitors a year.

The app is designed to play a key role in supporting British Land’s customers as they reoccupy Broadgate, from enabling a better understanding of the environments including lobby traffic, occupancy and air quality, to facilitating building and meeting room access and bookings. It will be combined with British Land’s Vicinitee management platform, which is already embedded into many of its buildings. 

One of the rays of sunshine to come out of the pandemic is the realisation that proptech can enhance and improve the customer experience and help re-engaging the workforce on the gradual return to the office.

Six degrees of separation is the concept that all people are six, or fewer, social connections away from each other. But property is such a small world that it sometimes seems to involve no more than two degrees of separation rather than the customary six. Proptech guru Antony Slumbers co-founded Vicinitee with Broadgate Estates in 2001. He sold his interest and the company subsequently became the property management arm of British Land.

As Slumbers recently tweeted regarding the British Land/Equiem partnership: “Rather delighted by this. @GetEquiem where I am on the Advisory Board marrying up with Vicinitee, which I co-founded way back in 2001. Together, absolutely THE top product/service in this space. Congratulations to all involved. A landmark #PropTech moment.” With my particular passion for establishing connections, this story particularly appeals. And Broadgate has a particular resonance for me as one of the first projects I worked on as a trainee solicitor was the first phase of Broadgate.



Source: Shutterstock/Production Perig

I somehow managed to secure an invitation to the historic ground-breaking ceremony held in the presence of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who sported a hard hat for the photo opportunity. I recall her speech caused some amusement because she transposed the names of the developers Godfrey Bradman and now (Sir) Stuart Lipton. She announced that if they finished construction in a year she would be back for the topping out.I believe the ground breaking shindig features in Peter Bill’s wonderful tome ‘Planet Property’ so he may remember whether Mrs T did indeed return for the topping out ceremony.

Back to the future in 2020, the fight for the survival of the west end continues unabated with energetic lobbying by New West End Company. It was good to hear from their CEO Jace Tyrrell that a milestone was reached last Saturday in that west end footfall reached 50% of numbers for this time last year. It says a lot for the current situation that this is seen as a triumph!

The Grosvenor Estate’s announcement that is to subsidise discounted meals beyond the Treasury’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme in a bid to avoid a renewed slump in footfall has been enthusiastically received. It will reduce rents for direct tenants which continue to offer diners half-price meals until the end of September. Among those signed up to Grosvenor’s offer already include Comptoir and Roka. This is a welcome initiative which other landlords may follow. Hospitality businesses are clearly struggling with the downturn in trade. Pret a Manger who rely heavily on the office worker population have announced they have axed 2,800 jobs.

They are however planning to access their office workers, wherever they are working, by offering nationwide free delivery service on Just Eat until 6 September.

Turning to the world of residential property, I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Helen Gordon for my Propertyshe podcast series where I get to talk to some of the influencers in the word of real estate and the built environment. As CEO of Grainger plc, the UK’s largest listed residential landlord, Gordon is a doyenne of the real estate sector who has had an incredible and varied real estate career to date.

In the early 80s she worked on the development of the new Milton Keynes railway station. Later at John Laing, she led the UK’s first PFI building project at Ashford International station and was also property director of Railtrack. This early railway theme has stood her in very good stead for the successful Grainger JV with Transport for London which has initial plans to build 3000 plus new rental homes.

On arriving at Grainger in 2016 following senior roles at Legal General Property and RBS, Gordon very swiftly refocused the 108 year old residential property company on build to rent development which she could see was a ‘gaping hole in the UK’s format for housing’. Professionally managed rental housing of high quality is needed by all age groups. Gordon is clear that the challenges to the Build to Rent sector include a lack of understanding of what the product is, government messaging about security of tenure and access to land for Build to Rent developers.

Amongst other topics, we also discussed whether the property sector is still a boys’ club and how Gordon has, as a woman, had to adapt her style. And there is some useful advice for younger people coming up through the sector. You can access the podcast on most podcast apps and on the Mishcon de Reya website.

Finally, according to New West End Company’s regular updates, Extinction Rebellion are planning a number of activities around central London from 1 September and also across other UK cities to coincide with the reopening of Parliament and the post summer break return to the office. That will at least increase central London footfall.

Susan Freeman is a partner at Mishcon de Reya

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