Opinion: Philippe Micheal

“If you fail to plan you are planning to fail” – Benjamin Franklin

That quote really resonates with our business. In our fast-paced market, planning isn’t always a luxury that time affords, yet for the many developer clients we work with, masterplanning is a fundamental part of the journey to delivering a successful mixed-use scheme.

We like to be involved at the earliest stage possible and whilst our ideas aren’t as avant-garde as Benjamin Franklin’s lightening rod, we are definitely singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to ensuring our clients have a clear strategy to achieve their ambitions.

There are no hard and fast rules and each project has its own distinct factors to be considered, be it location, environment or infrastructure. However, we believe in a distinct set of concepts that boost the chances of success.

It’s important to think From The Ground Up, finessing the quantity, configuration and design of any ground floor commercial elements from the outset. It’s accepted that in many cases the value is in the upper parts, be it residential or office. However, getting things right on the ground floor is an intrinsic part of driving the value above.

Post-covid working habits have shifted and so have people’s priorities. Striking a balance between convenience, service and destination uses now requires even more careful consideration.

Adopt a People First Approach, it’s not enough to simply say that we need a gym, a convenience store and perhaps a coffee shop. The strategy must be more nuanced. Identifying your target audience, not just the residents or office workers on site, but also in the surrounding community, is imperative. Understanding why people engage with a location is essential to securing occupiers that are relevant and will have longevity in the area.

On Berkeley Capital’s 250 City Road development, a high proportion of prospective purchasers had commented on the importance of having a nursery on site. Our ability to secure this type of user has boosted the attractiveness of the development to prospective residents.

Devise a clear Tenant Mix Strategy that looks at not just what, but who and how to secure them. Our clients value our holistic advice and whilst we never want to stifle ambition, we always layer our recommendations with a degree of realism. We set clear goals and realistic targets in terms of anticipated rental levels and likely incentive packages. Cash is King in the current market and developers must be open to capital contributions and non-traditional lease structures to attract the right occupiers.

Get passionate about Branding and Marketing as it’s key to reaching the right audience. Nobody cares if you are 40 minutes from Terminal 5 Heathrow when you are letting an F&B unit in East London. Developers do a brilliant job of marketing their product, often in a creative and polished way, but for the commercial occupier the information needs to be focused, engaging and above all relevant to the business you are trying to attract. Having a commercial marketing strategy distinct from the wider marketing of a development is paramount.

Ask any developer what the most important part of a build is and the answer is largely the same, the foundations. In a consultancy context we look at what we do as being the foundations – get it right and the rest should be plain sailing.