That Marmite feeling….in Nottingham?

Marmite has been in the news recently after it was reported that Denmark had banned it. It was something to do with fortified foods with added vitamins, minerals or other substances which can’t be marketed in Denmark unless approved by Danish food authorities – and Marmite isn’t approved!

And Marmite was used as a metaphor last night to describe the latest Nottingham building to have hit the press. My good mate Sue Churchill at Church Lukas Architects bagged the front page of the Evening Post! The story is here – the latest £60m development at Nottingham Trent University’s city centre campus.

I love marmite and I love this building. I think it just adds to this area. We already have a rejuvenated NTU campus – which I have blogged about before. The new Newton / Arkwright extension is superb and this new building compliments and helps yell out “success”. I might be a bit biased being a former student! I have many happy (?) memories of the Byron building – which is to be replaced by this new building… Byron was constructed, I guess, in the late 1960′s when this was a Polytechnic. It has had its day. It’s tired and dated.

We do have to remember that we really do need out to Universities to push boundaries – and this is not just in research. The architecture can be cutting edge too.

Although I think this is great stuff for nottingham it seems that some of the comments posted at the foot of the on-line Evening Post article are less than complimentary. But then you might recall that I ventured into this arena before and quickly retreated. It’s the usual suspects making misguided and irrelevant (mostly) comments. Sue has a sense of humour and agreed that the “Stevie Wonder Architecture Studio” was worthy of a laugh!

I hope people, whether they love it or hate it, see the benefit for the City….

Nottingham – Broad marsh – Good news?

There was a re-launch this week of the Broad Marsh shopping scheme. The scheme has been altered from the previously approved scheme and is expected to provide 1.1m square feet of space (around three times bigger than the current centre).

This is obviously good for Nottingham and we should be celebrating. If this development comes off then this part of Nottingham will benefit hugely. We have waited for some considerable time. The Planning system rather conspired against Westfield (the owners) and when they had resolved that, the market had turned. The present centre is a rather sad place – and a poor advert for Nottingham – especially if you arrive by train and ‘find’ Broad Marsh as your first stop.

If all goes well, we could also have a new Tram, The ‘new’ Broad Marsh, a new E.On office and an enlarged Victoria Centre all within a reasonable timescale. This is, as the Nottingham Evening Post put it, the feel of a boom town!

Broad Marsh owners Westfield were already carrying out some alterations in a mini scheme, but this latest announcement follows on from the Victoria Centre’s decision to extend. And therein may lie an issue. Have Westfield announced their decision because of the Victoria Centre plans? The reality is that Victoria Centre already have a great product and far superior tenant mix. Is it easier to add to this than, frankly, to start from scratch at Broad Marsh?

That’s not to say Broad Marsh shouldn’t go ahead – it should and must. It will help this part of town – and build on the Southside. I just have a concern that the number of tenants won’t materialise to satisfy the space availability which will be provided by both Centre’s.

Nottingham has always had a powerful axis of shopping along Bridlesmith Gate and Clumber Street. The two centre’s at each end being beefed up will only strengthen this. But what then happens to the periphery? The areas like Wheeler Gate, Friar Lane, Long Row? And Hockley (which is already suffering). This will be a finely poised marketplace – and I hope that the sudden rush of stock can be met by new retailers. Westfield in Derby had a detrimental effect on Sadler Gate – which still suffers today – a couple of years after the opening.

MIPIM – the plan is set!

After much soul-searching we have reached a consensus agreement in Nottingham. After Nottingham City Council pulled out of the show last year we have managed to gather a group of like-minded private firms. Some are MIPIM die-hards, some virgins.

Team Nottingham 2011 will comprise:

Innes England
Gleeds – cost consultants
Morgan Tucker – engineers
CPMG – architects
Miller Birch – developers
Geldards – lawyers
Nottingham Regeneration Limited

We have all committed cash to create a brand (“Team Nottingham”) which will represent Nottingham on the world stage in March. We will be holding two events in Cannes – one a dinner for Investors, the other a less formal drinks reception. We have commissioned branding material for the event.

We have also offered to sponsor Invest in Nottingham to the extent of paying all the expenses for a key member of the IIN team to come out with us.

The real work is yet to be done to make sure we get the profile Nottingham deserves. We will be inviting key people to the events we have arranged in Cannes and we will hopefully be able to report on success stories in due course. As a team we are all optimistic about our chances. We are all very positive about our presence on the Cote D’Azur.

There has been much press interest in what we are doing – but I hope it will be seen as positive – unlike the rather negative coverage the City got last week in the Evening Post. Updated PR here from The Guardian though – more positive!

We are hopeful of keeping Nottingham on the world map! We are not really interested in the politics. There is quite a big picture here – which is about inward investment, jobs and wealth creation.

I will post updates here!

Robin Hood and Nottingham – here we go again

I can’t let up this opportunity to comment on a story carried in Tuesday night Nottingham Evening Post. You can read it here, but to paraphrase,

Home for a Robin Hood attraction?

Tourism experts have criticised Nottingham for failing to make the most of Robin Hood…. a third of people surveyed associted the City with the outlaw (only a third?)…. Robin’s name is known worldwide…. Robin seems to disappear a little each year….. many visitors were disappointed with the Robin Hood dimension.

This work was carried out by the Nottingham University Business school.

I am pleased that this world class Institution have waded in. They have managed to get some column inches in the local paper. They have raised the issues again.

But, with the greatest respect to the report authors, we already knew all of this. The Sheriff’s Commission was founded on the basis of this knowledge. That Commission is now being wound down – and a smaller team is looking at the possibilities for the City.

But what must really happen is that we need to stop writing reports. We need to take action.

We do not capitalise on the brand of Robin Hood. And he is a brand worthy of using to our advantage. John Lyle at Purple Circle in Nottingham has done the key work on this already.

We have a fairly obvious site for an attraction.

We have had interest from a number of world class operators.

We have a very basic scheme designed.

We have the demographic information which ‘proves’ the economic case. It proves the potential visitor numbers.

But something gets stuck. It is not an easy two-minute solution, but there is a deliverable opportunity here. It’s difficult to see why the train is stopped on the track. The only glint of good news is that I think it still is on the track!

The crusade goes on…

MIPIM 2011 – the plans have changed

It seems that our plans for Nottingham at MIPIM 2011 will be very different from previous years. For the last six years, or so, we have been a sponsor of Nottingham City Council’s Invest in Nottingham team. And 2011 was expected to be no different.

A heavily branded Yacht for Nottingham at MIPIM this year

But the Comprehensive Spending Review has put a stop to all that – and the City have advised us this week that they will no longer be the main driver for this property show. To that end they have cancelled the Yacht that has been chartered for the last 6 years.

The Council have come in for lots of criticism over the years for the so called ‘jolly’ in the South of France. And some people will just not understand how the show works – there’s little point explaining to them. But the show is a hugely influential world stage – in which towns and cities across the globe compete for inward investment.

I have always argued that if we knew which 5% of our marketing hit home – we would abandon the other 95%. But we don’t know. What we do know is that there are a lot of the 5% people and companies in the South of France.

I do understand the sensitivities around a spend on a yacht when jobs are being threatened; but the marketing of the City needs to go on. In times of recession it could be argued that we should be prepared to market harder – one day the market will return and the City needs to be ready to take those opportunities that present themselves.

The team at Invest in Nottingham work tirelessly during the week long show. Sure I would rather be in Cannes than at the Birmingham NEC – I have never denied this. The atmosphere is conducive to business. And business gets done.

We need to make sure the world doesn’t think we are closed for business. That would be a disaster.

It looks like my firm and some of the other private sector firms will form some sort of club and promote the City from a ‘private sector’ viewpoint. But it won’t be the same….

The Nottingham Evening Post carried the story tonight here.

The end of the road for emda?

I was asked by the Nottingham Evening Post this week if I had a view on the news that emda is to die a lingering death by the new Coalition Government. I have blogged about this before – I do have a view…

The story I gave was:

It’s the end for the east midlands development agency. So, does that spell power or pain for the East Midlands?

Set up over a decade ago by the last government, emda is one of nine regional developments agencies established to work with local businesses to help development, employment, business efficiency and skills.

The figures given by emda say that there is £9 of economic output for every £1 it spends. And in 2008-09 2,630 jobs were created.

Tim Garratt, Director at Innes England, said: “I had first-hand experience with emda’s input into the Castle College Automotive and Engineering Training Centre at Highfields.

“Part of the building is let to Toyota with the other half occupied by Castle College. It is a world-class facility for automotive training.

“Although funded in part by the former Learning & Skills Council and a major contribution from the city, the majority of the build and fit-out was funded by emda. The funding was critical but much more important was their ability to be the central part of a large team – they added their corporate weight and influence. I doubt we would have attracted Toyota without them.”

There is a similar story next door at No.1 Nottingham Science Park, managed by Innes England.

“One of the most important lettings this year, in inward investment terms, is to The Changan Motor Company. Bryan Jackson of emda has to be credited with brokering this move to Nottingham.”

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills expects that RDAs will close by March 2012. The end of emda sees the start of ‘local enterprise partnerships’, comprising of councillors and local business schemes.

“It’s a case of ‘watch this space’ to see what impact a replacement LEP will have on the region. Attracting investment to ‘Greater Nottingham’ is important but I don’t think that anyone would argue that emda has always demonstrated the ability to see across the piste of the region and make sure that requirements are placed where they are best suited.

“It’s widely recognised that there needs to be belt-tightening in the current austere environment of public finance. But we have to be wary about completely strangling the flow of investment.

“The loss of emda is not just about the loss of a ‘building’ and the employees. It is potentially a massive loss of knowledge, built up over a decade. That knowledge is priceless in a competitive market.

“The region needs new investment – it is the lifeblood of the economy. As the saying goes ‘it is better to travel than to arrive’.

“We have no idea yet as to how the new LEP boards will operate, but they need to be wary of becoming parochial. They will also need the skills and experience to know how global investment works. I hope that key staff at emda will be employed so that we don’t lose the valuable intelligence.

“If every cloud does have a silver lining then it may be that this is a fresh start. Every business needs to refresh itself from time to time; but was it ‘broke’ in the first place?”

Tim Garratt is director of asset management for commercial property company Innes England.

I would be interested in other peoples view….

MIPIM 2010 : Press round up

Last weeks MIPIM conference in Cannes was a heady mix of breakfasts, lunches and dinners – sprinkled with on-to-one meetings and press interviews.

On the whole the PR this year was positive – and summary of some of the coverage is here:

Nottm Evening Post -Sell sell sell – 15th March 2010
Nottm Evening Post – my Robin Hood story – 16th March 2010
Nottm Evening Post – Krasnodar tie-up – 17th March 2010
Regenration & Renewal magazine – blog – 18th March
Nottm Evening Post – The development sales in Nottingham – 19th March
Nottm Evening Post – my article about the benefits of MIPIM – 19th March – web site story about Krasnodar – with my partner Matt Hannah’s comments – 19th March 2010
This is business east midlands – web story about sober MIPIM – 19th March 2010

There were two interviews for Radio Nottingham and one for Estates Gazette TV – blogged here.

We still have to try to get the Press to realise that this is not some champagne fuelled non-stop party. It is a key marketing event fro the City of Nottingham – and an important world event.

Nottingham Castle in the winter sun

As I continue to write my presentation for MIPIM I decided to spend an hour at Nottingham Castle yesterday morning.

Nottingham Castle by Jak Garratt

I needed some stock shots – and with the bright blue sky, this was an ideal day! My son, Jak came with me.

Although I am convinced that Nottingham should capitalise on Robin Hood by building a new visitor attraction, there have been doubters. They come from all walks of life. Some write to the Evening Post and bemoan any sort of ambition the City has. Some work for the Council and think that the current Castle is just fine as it is (an Art Gallery). Some people tell me they have heard it all before and nothing will ever happen (the defeatists!). Some believe that only the private sector can get the thing to fly.

My personal view is that Nottingham needs to think big. We do ‘own’ Robin Hood – he doesn’t belong at the side of a runway in Doncaster.

And yesterday, in the sunshine I watched a coach load of tourists arrive. I think they were German! There were Japanese tourists too – trying to get their picture by the statute of Robin Hood. All were talking excitedly in their own mother tongue.

I couldn’t help but wonder though whether they would leave Nottingham feeling ever so slightly let down? The Castle isn’t a real Castle – it’s a Ducal Palace. There’s no real story of Robin Hood being told. There was no Robin Hood and his band of merry men wandering around. This is where we are missing a trick – people want to come and be part of the story.

My son said afterwards that there was ‘nothing there’. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh – but I know what he means. The offer is limited!

With the film coming out in just over two months time – the visitors will not lessen! Now’s the time for the City to get Robin back and make something of him – the benefits for the whole City could be enormous!

MIPIM 2010 – preparations continue

With just over three weeks to go before the Le Marche International des Professionnels de l’ Immobilier (MIPIM) final preparations are underway. Investor numbers are reported to be up.

Plimouth plantation nr. Boston - an idea for the Castle? grounds?

Nottingham City Council will be at the show – promoting the City on the world stage. In fact the leader of the Councillor is going very green this year – he’s cycling there! You can sponsor him and Nigel Turpin here. It’s for a great cause – he is raising money for Maggie’s locally.

It looks like there will also be some publicity around Robin Hood – both in terms of the film (due for release on May 14th in the UK) but also some information about the work of the Sheriff’s Commission. I have been on the advsory board of the Commission for the last seven months or so. Some of the key timefames and ideas can be found here. There are some great further Ideas emerging – which I might be presenting in Cannes. I will share them on the blog.

I saw the Sheriff in the week – it is clear that he remains really enthusiastic about how Nottingham capitalise on the Robin Hood brand. We still have some way to go in bringing about a world class attraction to the City – but I remain convinced that it can be done. The World Cup in 2018 might be a driver – it’s not actually that far away when you consider what we need to do. In a nutshell we need an Investor. Public Finances in the next few years are going to be restricted.

One of the things that will happen is Robin Hood month in May (to coincide with the film). Armour making, Jousting and Archery are planned for the Castle. But we are fortunate in that Universal Studios have been kind enough to loan us props from the film – it is hoped that these will be on show! The Broadway Cinema is having a season of films around Robin Hood. Then there is the excellent Castle Rock brewery which is brewing a special Robin Hood Ale…

At last, Nottingham is beginning to realise the value of Robin Hood as a brand for the city. For too many years we have been reticent about his importance.

I am really enthusiastic about what we can do with Robin Hood. He doesn’t run an airport near Doncaster – he belongs to Nottingham. Or as John Paul Davis said “Robin Hood and Nottingham go together like peaches and cream”. I rest my case.

University of Nottingham – prolific developer!

There was news yesterday that the University of Nottingham officially opened the new ‘Grace’ building on Triumph Road – which I blogged about before.

The Grace Building Nottingham

Designed by a local team – including Mabers, d3Shipway and Price & Myers I think is a really great example of a practical building which looks great. I drive by it each day on my way home – and I think it looks even better at night.

Of course the really clever stuff goes on inside – it is a world class centre for studying Global Positioning Systems. Our lives have become dependent on GPS – which is now a pretty unremarkable tool. My phone uses the technology.

I commented on an imagemakers blog about map reading last week when I was debating with Phil Songhurst about the next wave of GPS – augmented reality. The latter will be a fantastic tool which I believe will change the face of how we find our way around!

We should also remind ourselves that the University have been building on the Triumph Road site now for many years, since purchasing the old Raleigh site. The building programme has continued apace through all manner of market conditions!

I was privileged last week to be shown a building on the main University campus which has been renovated for use by VIP visitors to the University. I have to say that the results were visually stunning – at 5-star hotel standard. But what also struck me was that the building had been ‘properly’ refurbished respecting the original features. Corners had not been cut. I would love to stay there!

A few years ago I was asked by a University client to help them with a report to their Governors – who wanted to know why their build costs were higher than those on a typical business park setting. What was apparent was that general offices (like my own) are well built – to a price. The developer knows there is a quality standard to achieve the optimum rental and capital values. The Universities are not driven by this; they have a long term game play. So the materials tend to be better and the design can be more adventurous.

The day I met the Prince!

One of the proudest achievements in my professional life was my involvement in acquiring the former Devonshire Royal Hospital from the NHS for Derby University in 2000. I got to meet Prince Charles at the opening! And even today the building still wows me every time I go.

What I really liked about Grace (which is at the opposite end of the architectural scale to the Buxton jewel) is that it clearly is a ‘box’, but the use of light and colour lifts it so that it really is better than an office.

We shouldn’t forget the contribution the Education sector contributes to our built environment – as well as providing bright Graduates!