I cannot wait to enjoy engaging with physical real estate in London again and put into action a lot of the strategic thought and planning that has taken place over the past year.

Richard Smart

As I interact with clients and colleagues across London and the workplace, I will ensure that my actions and behaviour make in-person interaction a positive experience.

We all have a responsibility to each other to make our physical environment and the interactions we have within it as enjoyable as possible to re-ignite London’s appeal as a place to work in, interact in and enjoy. It is us, the people, that make the place and create enjoyable experiences and memories.

This year, physical real estate will be on test to show its benefits alongside the now firmly established virtual world. Ironically, lockdown three may have been a blessing in that it has really confirmed the importance of physical interaction for people when consuming, socialising or working.

CBRE is working with clients to clearly articulate the benefits of physical real estate and, where necessary, reposition assets to meet the demands of new consumer trends and needs.

To give a few examples, our workplace team has collected Harvard-ratified data to empirically prove how task-based workspaces enhance productivity in the office — a key area offices must focus on to ensure their appeal remains a core part of a company’s successful operation.

London skyline

Source: Shutterstock/phillus

Our retail and logistics team is leading the way in advising on how best to reposition traditional retail assets to meet the multi-channel demands of today’s consumer, recently having advised on the acquisition and repositioning of several retail warehouses and retail parks as prime urban logistics facilities.

Our planning team is advising across London to repurpose built assets and redevelop major strategic sites to meet the new demands from the consumer and government. Our advice on key areas such as Meridian Water and Thamesmead are prime examples.

Lastly, there has been an incredible focus on creating sustainable real estate, and our environmental consulting team has never been more in demand to advise on ESG strategy.

London needs support from the government, too. The politics between Westminster and City Hall must not hinder ambition and progress for London. Our globally recognised city is something to nurture and invest in for the benefit of the whole of the UK.

London is a global gateway city and an important part of the ‘build back better’ strategy. The projected population growth of London plus its global appeal for businesses provide the catalyst to invest in infrastructure and housing, and the services and amenities required to support these growing communities.

The opportunity for real estate to create skilled employment to deliver future housing and infrastructure needs, alongside sustainable industries, will be an integral part of future development and should be a big focus for government. It is time to drop the politics and build back a London where every one of us can play an important part in re-sparking enjoyment of the physical in our wonderful city.

Richard Smart is London managing director of CBRE