The world of commercial property – the deals, the characters and the blueprints – might often seem a bit removed from the day to day life of the North East people who walk the streets between the rising new developments.
But there are times – and we are right in the middle of one now – when the two meet perfectly and what the commercial property market is doing in our cities and towns becomes a major influence.
The reason this time is a triple blow of announcements from Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser and Poundworld that they just can’t afford to maintain their presence on high streets up and down the country.
M&S and HoF stores at the Metro are safe, ringfenced by out of town rates, warm and dry shopping and 10,000 free parking spaces.
HoF chairman Frank Slevin said: “Our legacy store estate has created an unsustainable cost base which, without restructuring, presents an existential threat to the business. The retail industry is undergoing fundamental change and House of Fraser urgently needs to adapt to this fast-changing landscape in order to give it a future and allow it to thrive.”
Strong words with an impact to match. An attractive retail offering brings people and their money into towns and cities, keeps the bar and restaurant trade busy, makes urban housing more attractive and with retail jobs as the starting point for many careers, the sustainability of our high street is crucial.
It is a national as well as regional responsibility to Save Our Shops. The whole Comm Prop sector will have the issue of rates at the top of its agenda, but the ‘feel’ of our town and city centres is a local issue to be dealt with in a region well used to fighting for its future against all sorts of threats.
We know that companies want to come here and we must be confident of what they will find – a deluge of optimism and impressive and immediate plans for dealing with the bad news we can’t avoid. There has to be turnkey space and a momentum that this is the street to invest in because it will grow alongside its new tenants.
We have the imagination and the skills to provide whatever accommodation a new investor needs – and the foresight to have it ready and waiting to help land a potential deal.
Keith Stewart knows what the region is capable of, having been at Naylors for 16 years where he is now a director and head of the Industrial Agency team. He told us: “We expect to see some significant occupiers signing up to development contracts in the North East over the next 12 months.
“They are actively seeking design and build opportunities and the North East boasts some fantastic strategic development sites ready to meet this demand.”
One key site is Integra 61 in Bowburn, Durham, where the developer has invested heavily in infrastructure works to provide a platform to enable the development of two million sq.ft of industrial space as well as housing and leisure amenities – a major factor in attracting inward investment alongside a good road network and that skilled labour pool.
There are still challenges for us to face together, with refurbishments still making up for a lack of Grade A office space in Newcastle city centre, but there are developments in the pipeline which will continue to prove this is the right home for innovative, large-scale developments.
Source: Chronicle Live