Hopefully, we will continue to integrate zoom and other platforms into our events post lockdown as they have enabled some international panels that wouldn’t otherwise be possible or viable.
For instance, the ULI Europe Tech Council of which I am a member has been able to organise reciprocal meetings with its New York counterpart group, which has been particularly useful in sharing and disseminating knowledge.
The joys of zoom also meant that I was able to chair a fascinating panel last week for the Washington DC based Global Workspace Association on the thorny subject of valuing flexible offices. This is an important issue as flex becomes an essential for landlords looking to retain and attract occupiers in a post-COVID office market. As landlords and asset managers adapt to meet fast-changing tenant requirements, they need answers on how flexible office models impact the valuation of their assets. My industry leading panellists were Scott Homa of JLL, speaking from Washington DC, Brandon Medeiros of Alidade Partners in New York and Chris James of essensys speaking from the California coast. We certainly need answers as JLL have predicted that 30% of all office space will be flexible in some way by 2030 and Mark Dixon founder and CEO of IWG/Regus has put it higher. We covered a lot of ground, including the optimum percentage of flex in an office building and the impact on valuation, and whether there will be a discount if there is no flex space in a multi tenanted building; the growing importance of the brand of the flex operator and parallels to look out for in the valuation approach in the hotel sector; whether property companies can compete with the flex operators and the vital importance of the technology overlay. The panellists were drawing on their experiences in the US real estate market but there are clear parallels with the growing UK flex sector.
Following on from the panel discussion, I came across a short film from Sam Gamble of Canada based Cloudworks Capital Corporation which provides some great content on the challenges of valuing flex space and suggestions for moving forward, drawing on comments from Annie Rinker of Hines, Ryan Simonetti of Convene, Jamie Hodari of Industrious, Antony Slumbers and Dror Poleg. It is definitely worth a view: https://lnkd.in/gECpqWZ
Being able to conduct meetings virtually during lockdown has of course provided real benefits to local authorities across the country. However, the government has indicated that extending the regulations to meetings beyond the 7 May would require emergency legislation and with its legislative programme already under ‘severe pressure’ this is unlikely to happen. In a recent case, brought by local government lawyers the High Court has refused to declare that councils can continue to hold meetings remotely on or after 7 May, saying the matter is for parliament, not the courts, to decide. This does highlight the lack of autonomy local authorities have in deciding how they should operate.
It’s good to see that the Property Week Climate Crisis Challenge, in which Mishcon de Reya are partners for a second year, alongside Savills and Argent, has been recognised by being shortlisted for Campaign of The Year in the PPA Awards 2021. Fingers crossed for a win!
On the subject of climate change and carbon reduction, international real estate company Hines, has recently secured planning consent from Westminster City Council for its proposed eight story flagship mixed-use retail and office scheme with a coveted dual frontage onto both New Bond Street and Oxford Street in London’s west end. Their press release states the specific amount of carbon that will be saved by refurbishing rather than redeveloping the building, underlined by a commitment to offset the next 30 years of operational carbon. Will we be seeing more of this type of information?
Continuing the carbon reduction theme, a particularly smart car, the Airo, was launched at the Shanghai Motor Show. Designed by London based Heatherwick Studio, it will vacuum up pollutants from other cars as it drives. Not only is this car smart but it has a social purpose! This is apparently the first car designed by the studio founded by Thomas Heatherwick (whom I had the pleasure of interviewing from his bedroom at the start of lockdown last year!) Designed to also address the global space shortage, the Airo is a multi-functional room with extra space for dining, working, gaming or even sleeping.
This week I was delighted to interview Fiona Fletcher-Smith, the new CEO of housing association and developer L&Q. It was fascinating to hear her motivation for moving from ‘the theoretical’ after 25 years in local and regional government to actually building homes for Londoners. Having sat together round numerous tables together discussing the housing crisis over the last few years, I can fully understand the desire to do something practical to alleviate the housing problem. The podcast also reveals the reason that the L&Q role was destined to be! There are some great insights into how developers can collaborate better with local authorities and why listening and respecting local democracy are key. We touched on the issues of being a woman and an outsider in a male dominated industry and the need to ‘ditch the grey suits’ in favour of yellow! We also remminisced about the late Tony Pidgley and the evolution of Berkeley Homes. As somebody who has seen both sides, Fletcher-Smith is able to offer some useful advice around planning and place making and the importance of allowing change to happen, with particular mention for Croydon - ‘an amazing town’ and for Hackney and Councillor Guy Nicholson. And she mentioned during the conversation that L&Q are looking for developer partners to work with.
Finally, Los Angeles based real estate company Caruso has announced it will start accepting bitcoin as rent payment at its residential and retail properties. It has entered into a partnership with Gemini, the cryptocurrency exchange and custodian headed by CEO Tyler Winklevoss. ‘We believe that cryptocurrency is here to stay. We believe that bitcoin is a right investment for us,’ founder and CEO Rick Caruso said in an interview on CNBC, ‘We’ve allocated a percentage of what would normally go into the capital markets into bitcoin.’ Is this something we are likely to see more of in the UK?