I have been writing a weekly blog since lockdown started in March in order to chronicle the real estate sector’s response to this extraordinary year. The daily awareness that we are creating history is not comfortable for anyone.
Having been through spring into an unusually sunny summer we have now most definitely moved into autumn. Our exercise regimes are clearly going to be challenged as the evening post-work walk is becoming increasingly dark, cold and wet. And will we be able to keep up our enthusiasm for our newly discovered alfresco dining with the help of canopies, heaters and blankets?
Notwithstanding the gloomy weather, it’s been a particularly bright week for my Propertyshe podcast alumni with the first name ‘Peter’! I do take a vicarious pride in my podcast guests being such very high achievers! The ‘intellectually rigorous’ Peter Pereira Gray (to use fellow Property Week columnist, Peter Bill’s expression!) has been appointed to chair the RICS review set up to examine how valuations of property assets for investment purposes are conducted. The Times headline ‘Charity boss leads review into property valuations’ rather understates the influential global investment roles that Pereira Gray holds.
For more on these listen to the podcast here:
And Peter Freeman, the visionary developer behind the regeneration of London’s Kings Cross, was selected by Housing Minister Robert Jenrick as preferred candidate for the role of chairman of Homes England, the government housing accelerator. The government announcement goes on to say ‘Peter, one of the most distinguished figures in the industry is well known for his renowned work to regenerate Kings Cross, with a track record of planning and delivering much needed revival of local areas, creating imaginative economic centres and places people want to visit and live.’ To find out about Peter’s career to date and how he came to unlock the Kings Cross regeneration area where others had failed, listen here:
And on the subject of Kings Cross, it is good to see Google showing commitment to the London office market and taking additional office space close to its £1 billion new headquarters in King’s Cross and an extension of their lease at Central St Giles.
In a recent interview Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said they were “reconfiguring” their office spaces to accommodate what he called “on-sites”, presumably intended to assemble in the office those employees, who work mostly from home. He said that the company was making changes to its physical spaces to better support employees in a future which he said would include “hybrid models” of work. He said ‘I see the future as definitely being more flexible’ which I am hearing a lot.
In a first for the UK, it looks like it’s finally launch time for the International Property Securities Exchange (IPSX) the world’s first regulated stock exchange dedicated to the initial public offering and secondary market trading of companies owning institutional grade real estate assets. Mailbox REIT Plc has become the first to list on the IPSX.
The underlying asset, The Mailbox, is an iconic mixed use building in Birmingham. (Indeed, I have stayed there in previous years while attending the conservative party conference and enjoyed the retail offer which includes Harvey Nichols.) As Anthony Gahan, the architect of IPSX told me, ‘With hindsight, ignoring Brexit and the pandemic, I shouldn’t have been surprised that it takes so long to launch a new stock exchange to connect the real estate world with the global investor universe.
The fact that I am happily back at my day job as a banker is a testament to the quality of the IPSX team and the core proposition to make real estate the fourth mainstream asset class.’ This milestone represents a major advance for the real estate market so congratulations to Anthony Gahan and the IPSX team who have weathered Brexit, an election and then Covid-19 to arrive at this point.
This week the ULI Europe Technology and Real Estate Product Council of which I am delighted to be a member held their second virtual roundtable discussion session ‘Workplace of the Future’. It was slightly nostalgic as our last gathering had been in the groundbreaking EDGE Technologies Olympic building in Amsterdam.
Our virtual reunion was moderated by our Co-chairmen Jan Duffhues (City of Amsterdam), Roelof Opperman (Fifth Wall VC Fund) and Cees van der Spek (EDGE Technologies) using live polling to gauge members’ thoughts on future trends for the workplace.
Philip Tidd of Gensler gave a thought provoking presentation on what we have learned from lockdown. One of the conclusions is that not having to commute is the number one positive to come out of not going to the office. This theme came up in my podcast interview with Convene co-founder and CEO Ryan Simonetti. Another interesting point is that a lot of European cities are already 15 minute cities and it is the larger cities such as London that will have a problem with accessibility. Clearly there will be change and things won’t go back to where they were but corporates are in scenario planning mode it will be some time before we know how much change we will see.
Gabrielle McMillan, CEO of global property technology firm Equiem, took us through the Equiem lockdown journey. From the initial challenges of setting up digital launches for remote workers to the launch of their new platform, Remote by Equiem for their 175,000 users. The idea of the new app is to extend services well beyond the physical space. McMillan also expressed the view that change will take longer than we think. It was the first time I had attended an event with McMillan since a panel in March when she was calling in remotely from lockdown in New York. Barely a week later we were in lockdown in London.
The office is quite a theme this week as we are gearing up for the second in our Mishcon de Reya Academy digital panel series, this time focusing on the future of the office. We will look at the opportunities and challenges facing the office market, including investor and occupier trends, changing uses and demands, and the impact of issues such as sustainability, health and wellness, and technology.
I am delighted to be chairing an illustrious panel of industry experts: Charlie Green: Joint Founder and Co-CEO, The Office Group; Richard Howard: Head of London Leasing, Cushman & Wakefield; Ronen Journo: SVP, Enterprise & Workplace, WeWork and Emily Prideaux: Director of Leasing, Derwent London. If our pre panel briefing is anything to go by this is going to be a very lively and thought provoking session!
And finally a recent social media post about the much maligned and slightly terrifying paternoster lift, a feature of 70’s university campuses, got me thinking about whether it is due for a revival. It is contactless as you simply step into your own pod and of course it avoids the problems of social distancing. Worth thinking about?
Susan Freeman is a partner at Mishcon de Reya
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