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Why Manningham’s Mills better…

July 5th, 2010 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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Before

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After

Reading the Guardian’s recent report on the regeneration of Manningham and English Heritage’s new book on the town prompted me to think back.

I first visited Lister Mills in the late 1990s and was instantly struck by the grandeur of the buildings. Samuel Lister still has more patents than any other Englishman - perhaps the Bill Gates of his day. Yet moving around the derelict, empty, forgotten, mills (which had long since gone bankrupt) was a depressing experience.

To cheer me up I went a couple of miles down the road to Saltaire and saw Jonathan Silver’s Salts Mill which he had turned into a thriving shopping emporium with restaurants, bookshops, jewelers, the Hockney Gallery and lots of other businesses.

This made me determined to do something with Lister Mills. Many people had looked at redeveloping the Mill; ideas such as a Victoria and Albert North Museum and a factory outlet village had been talked about, but no one had been able to deliver. Delivery became harder with the unrest and riots in 2001 but through persistence and determination we were able to come up with funding packages and partnerships with Yorkshire Forward and Bradford Council, both of which helped us start work on the restoration of the first corner of the first building Silk Warehouse in 2003.

Seven years later the work is by no means finished and there’s still buildings to restore but we have created a lot. 255 apartments, the Manningham Mills Community Centre, Mind the Gap – a theatre for actors with learning disabilities – and a department of Bowling College Bradford which will open in September.

All this has helped with the beginnings of a real community. Much else has gone on in Manningham and it has gone through a lot, transforming from a prosperous town in Victorian times to somewhere that declined in the 1990s and is again fast becoming a diverse, successful place.

Urban Splash is proud to have played its part and we’re keen to do more.


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Filed under: Bradford, Lister Mills, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash - tags: , , , , , ,
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Letter to Estates Gazette by Tom Bloxham MBE

October 12th, 2009 [ 5 comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

I recently read an article about Urban Splash in the property trade magazine Estates Gazette (pictured) and felt compelled to respond. Below is my letter which was published in the magazine:

Dear Sirs,

I was pleased to see Mr Alastair Stewart’s comments on Urban Splash’s financial results in Estates Gazette on 12th September 2009. As a private company, we choose to be very open and publish our figures, and he is one of the few analysts that have taken time to comment.

Mr Stewart correctly points out that Urban Splash has not been immune from the crisis all around us (but I feel we have weathered the storm better than some). Where we differ is Mr Stewart’s assertion that we are going horribly wrong by not following the property market’s guiding precept: location, location, location. In this he is right, I believe, if you simply buy in the best locations you will succeed or fail as the market rises or falls. However, what we try and do is help locations improve, and in doing so improve the value of our assets.

He points to our restoration of the Midland Hotel in Morecambe, which he notes in the 2003 bestseller book of Crap Towns (I like your reading list Alistair!) Morecambe came third, and doubts we can make a difference. I hope he is wrong.

Fifteen years ago people doubted we could persuade people to live in Manchester or Liverpool city centres; ten years ago people doubted we could transform Manningham Mills in Bradford; five years ago people doubted we could make a success of our Salford Victorian terraces or Fort Dunlop in Birmingham. The point of these examples is not that we are always right (we’re not!), but just that it’s worth a go.

I believe those of us privileged enough to work in the property industry have a duty not only to make profits, but also to try and make a difference. Our buildings will last longer than we do and I want them to make a positive impact on our towns and cities and that is what drives us at Urban Splash.

Best regards,

Tom Bloxham MBE
Chairman
Urban Splash

estates_gazette

Filed under: Bradford, Lister Mills, Midland Hotel, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash - tags: , , ,
5 comments

5 comments to Letter to Estates Gazette by Tom Bloxham MBE

  1. Richard Pearce says:

    Tom,

    I feel compelled to make contact following your correspondence on the EG.

    TCN are also great believers in breaking with traditions and providing context driven projects. To create inspiring environments for people to live and work derives a value of which p&l is only part.

    My reaction to your letter is partly “thank god there are other visionaries in the Market place”, but at the same time, what wonderful opportunities are created by the blinkered views we battle with in the uk on a daily basis.

    It takes a lot of energy, but i am sure you agree that the satisfaction of pushing the boundaries is a source of endless satisfaction and opportunity.

  2. Sarah Hughes says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Tom. It’s refreshing to see developers caring about not just places and spaces, but the people in them. Why can’t altruism be viable too?

    Sarah Hughes
    http://www.giraffecomms.com

  3. michael gough says:

    I remember when Tom sold posters from an old building on hulme st, he has become a very successful man in a very competative arena. It seems like its the good old british tradition of slaging people off for doing well.

    I think Tom and his little company are doing a fantastic job for themselves and the city of manchester, and any other town or city they get involved with.

    All property developers are greedy bastards but at least Urban Splash are trying to do something positive.

    kind regards,

    Michael Gough(not MBE yet)

  4. Leanne Forshaw, Urban Splash says:

    More feedback on this here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/pages/Urban-Splash/44610353182

  5. Leanne Forshaw, Urban Splash says:

    **Hot off the press** - we’ve just received a lovely email of support on this blog from Allsops property consulants:

    I just thought I would take the time to send you this quick e-mail to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your letter in the Estates Gazette on 26th September.

    It was very refreshing to read your repost. You and your team have done a great job over the last 15-20 years to change the face of parts of the country that sorely needed it and if every developer soley concentrated on the old location, location, location and pure profit scenario then the vast majority of us would all be trying to live in about 20 different postcodes!

    I hope more developers take a lead from Urban splash and in the meantime I sincerely hope that The Midland Hotel and all your other schemes continue to inject the positive effects that they undoubtedly have.

    Kind regards
    Yours sincerely
    Michael Linane BSc (Hons) MRICS

Twittering versus twitching in Bradford

July 24th, 2009 [ 1 comment ] [ Add comment ]
by Rachel Maren

Here in the Yorkshire office we are a bit less social media savvy than our head office counterparts. While they have all been busy ‘Tweeting’ we’ve been busy ‘twitching’. Yes, bird watching…

The reason for this is that we have had some new tenants join us at Lister Mills and we’ve been busy keeping an eye on them. Our 255 ft Italianate chimney is now home to a pair of peregrine falcons.

The birds usually live on rocky sea cliffs, uplands and marshes, and were only really known to move away from these in the autumn, but are increasingly found to be choosing city living instead (same mission statement as Urban Splash it seems!). They seem to have great architectural taste as well, other pairs have been spotted at Derby Cathedral, the Tate Modern and our very own Fort Dunlop! We certainly can’t argue with their choices, they’ve not only picked one of Bradford’s landmark buildings but a penthouse with the best view in the city!

Peregrines are birds of prey and their diet consists of mainly of medium sized birds. We suspect that the pigeon population here at Lister Mills might start to dwindle in coming weeks!

Anyway enough of this blogging business I’m off back to my binoculars…

Filed under: Bradford, Lister Mills 1 comment

1 comments to Twittering versus twitching in Bradford

  1. fudgeit says:

    i live just a little bit down the road from Lister Mills, and could have sworn i have heard these falcons early in the morning!

    also: i love the idea of living in lister mills, but my mister isn’t keen :(

This is an essay which was originally published as chapter 17 in a book called Regeneration in a Downturn published by The Smith Institute

The past 20 years have brought a phenomenal urban renaissance to Britain’s cities. They have undergone great regeneration, developing and changing at a pace unprecedented since Victorian times. The benefits of this change are palpable for anybody visiting our great Northern cities, but now there is a real danger this renaissance will come to a shuddering halt and the huge strides that have been made will go into reverse. There are some lessons to be learnt from this and some hopes for the future.

Investing in quality architecture
When I came to Manchester in the 1980s to study at the university, I was struck by the huge number of empty, drab Victorian warehouses. They were lying empty, unloved and blackened by generations of soot. If they happened to be occupied, it was typically only on the ground floor, often next to level car parks which, on investigation, were usually bomb sites left like that since the Second World War.

As I started in business, I noticed a paradox; the property industry said those Victorian buildings, which were mostly of great architectural quality, would never let and were not suitable for “modern uses”. In contrast, the small amount of new development occurring at the time was, to my mind, of poor architectural quality, expensive to lease and largely institutional. Owners only wanted to lease to established companies with good covenants.

I started in the property industry – not even knowing what a covenant was – by leasing or buying those old, unloved buildings and exposing the great Victorian features that lay hidden inside them. We leased them to young, entrepreneurial, creative companies; first as retail space at Afflecks Palace in Manchester and The Palace on Slater Street in Liverpool, later as workspace in buildings such as Ducie House in Manchester and finally as residential loft apartments, such as Concert Square in Liverpool and Smithfield Building and Sally’s Yard in Manchester. This brought in a new generation of people, who wanted to live, work, eat, drink and have fun in city centres that had, until then, been empty beyond 6pm.

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Concert Square, Liverpool

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Smithfield Building, Manchester

Forward-looking civic leaders added to the city-centre vibrancy. They made great use of the new lottery funding, investing in a series of great cultural buildings: theatres, concert halls and galleries. By the mid 1990s, large developers and house builders, seeking to follow the success of niche firms such as Urban Splash and Manhattan Loft Company, entered the market, where they saw money was to be made. House prices rose, and a financial model emerged of pre-selling apartments off-plan and securing development finance, with debt from banks on the strength of planning permission and pre-sales. A mass of developers entered the race to refurbish every underused building and construct exciting new mixed-use developments on the former bomb-site car parks. The new residents who inhabited them brought great spending power into city centres. They paid council tax, and were often educated, articulate, active citizens. This encouraged councils to improve city-centre services and retailers to take advantage of a new breed of customer, who wanted all that the cities had to offer.

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Rotunda, Birmingham

Developers provided, through the buy-to-let market, a much-needed supply of quality (for the most part) private rented accommodation. They improved derelict buildings and replaced unsightly bomb sites with gleaning new architecture; sometimes very good, occasionally bad or, all too often, mediocre. But, whatever the architecture, they succeeded in rebuilding city blocks, fuelling the construction industry and bringing people into the city centres.

Lending – and building – comes to a standstill
In August 2008, the party stopped. Just before this time there had been murmurs of the market overheating. Prices had, in fact, been stagnant for a couple of years, with increases in headline prices being matched by increases in incentives and discounts offered by developers. But the autumn of 2008 saw the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the banking crisis and an almost immediate stop in both development and mortgage lending (in August 2008 mortgage lending was down 97% year-on-year). Inter-bank lending stopped and every financial institution tried to call in as much debt as possible. Individuals who, until then, had expectations of obtaining mortgages of 90%, 95% and even 100% of their properties now found it difficult to secure even 70% finance. Banks, which had previously been competing to lend us money, effectively closed up lending. By October 2008, even for sizable, very good commercial investment properties of, say, £50 million there were only four active lenders, only one of which was a household name. None were high-street banks and none would lend at more than 60-70% loan-to-value. No banks were lending on speculative residential developments.

Money does not make the world go round, but it does certainly keep the development industry going. In August 2008, the tap was literally turned off. The larger house builders all had to seek serious refinance, while smaller developers went into receivership after receivership. Individuals working in regeneration and the building trade, who only six months before had been in real short supply, began to lose their jobs.

So now, in 2009, where does this leave us? In many ways, nothing has changed. The values of good architecture, mixed uses, mixed tenure and sustainable development have never been more to the fore. The effective use of public-private partnerships has never been more necessary and the demand for quality housing is as great as it has ever been. Individuals are now renting rather than buying, because they either are unable to get mortgages or anticipate that values have further to fall. I believe that what is needed now is new forms of finance. It is no longer possible for local authorities to rely on private developers to subsidise regeneration through housing. No longer can new developments provide the locality with spin-off benefits through cross-subsidy section 106 agreements, nor can developers provide the required levels of affordable housing. If we are to see regeneration continue, we need stronger partnerships between the public and private sectors. The need for the public sector to take the lead has been recognised by the government, and the new Homes & Communities Agency has the potential to lead on this. Schemes such as Park Hill in Sheffield – where we have just commenced work on the first phase of the Grade II Listed building’s redevelopment – show that when the public sector is prepared to take the lead in a partnership even the most challenging regeneration project can proceed.

The current low land values and spare capacity in the development and construction industries provide a unique opportunity to try and help resolve the affordable housing shortage. In addition, giving a stimulus to the construction industry is a quick, easy and effective way to create employment, utilise skills and prevent the dole queues from growing.

Keeping regeneration going
Although the past 12 months have been an incredibly difficult period for the regeneration industry, I believe that the next few years will offer the best opportunities of my lifetime. In this next period, we can create a real difference and push the urban renaissance. At the moment, nothing stacks up in conventional development appraisals, so every scheme we do needs innovative thinking and innovative funding. We should be able to create some exceptionally interesting architecture and creative regeneration schemes in the next few years, but it will require a longer-term view on investment, and new forms of funding, with perhaps the public sector taking more equity stakes – sharing more of the reward as well as the risk – and working ever closer with good developers to create great neighbourhoods.

The past 20 years have seen the transformation of most of the major cities, but the job is far from over. The public sector and private companies must consider areas beyond the core city centres; within half a mile of most city centres lie doughnuts of deprivation most of which have not changed at all. There are exceptions, though. Successful regeneration has occurred in patches, such as, to give three examples from Manchester: the old 1970s Cardroom Estate in East Manchester which is being transformed into New Islington, the old Victorian Langworthy Road terraced houses in Salford that have been reborn as Chimney Pot Park and are home to a thriving community, and the former Dalton Street 1960s tower blocks in Collyhurst, now known as 3Towers.

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Chimney Pot Park, Salford

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3 Towers, Manchester

These schemes are the exception, not the norm, and there is a mass of social housing estates and Victorian terraces that still need to be transformed. The urban renaissance, as well as not affecting the doughnuts around city cores, has also bypassed many smaller towns. There are, again, exceptions; schemes such as Longlands in Stalybridge, Royal William Yard in Plymouth, the Midland Hotel in Morecambe and Lister Mills in Bradford show what can be achieved with catalytic schemes, giving confidence to run-down towns and smaller cities. However, without new forms of public sector support it is difficult to see how these sorts of schemes are to be tackled and how these towns can regenerate themselves.

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Midland Hotel, Morecambe

I believe that the regeneration industry is now at a crossroads. If we are not careful, our towns and cities will be allowed to go into decline. We will lose the momentum gained over the past 20 years. Skilled practitioners will lose their jobs and regeneration will be left only to the private sector – but the private sector will not have access to the finance or debt to develop, at least not in the locations where the renaissance is most needed. Alternatively, we can grab the opportunities, we can take the benefit of low land values and of spare capacity in the regeneration, development and construction industries in order to work now in true partnership to continue the urban renaissance and create wonderful new places in our towns and cities.

For more before and after images of Urban Splash schemes visit our Urban Splash Flickr page

Filed under: 3 Towers, Chimney Pot Park, Concert Square, Lister Mills, Longlands, Manchester, Midland Hotel, Park Hill, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash - tags:
2 comments

2 comments to Is there a future for regeneration? by Tom Bloxham MBE

  1. Jeremy Dillon says:

    As a former City Councillor of Stoke-on-Trent, the biggest challenge faced is often consistency of vision. Manchester benefited alot from the relationship between its Chief Exec and City Council Leader, as well as forward thinking and financial backing.

    When I look at some of the most exciting architectural projects in the world I think ‘This is where creativity meets functionality’. Functional in the sense of space for business, a place that houses those who are making waves in the business sector, creative arts etc. Creativity is what makes these buildings iconic, the “Oh, we’re based in that big blue glass space on such a street.” Iconic buildings, I believe, help to make iconic brands.

    Architecture is where the artistic can hit the mainstream. Where the creative enters the public conscious.

    http://www.jdillon777.wordpress.com

  2. Chris Hill, Camberwell says:

    Be great if we could go that one step further.

    Persuade local authorities and Homes and Communities to use some of their budget / assets to bring physical, economic and community development together in the same place. Great Urban Splash like commercial buildings in the middle of the doughnuts of deprivation, driven to generate activity and enterprise in the local community.

    They’ll take subsidy to start and probably 3 years to break even. They won’t ever make anyone a fortune, but will make a much greater long term impact than a continual dribble of regeneration grants.

    Maybe too small for Splash - but you set the standards for inspiring property that we all need to follow

Mind the Gap at Lister Mills

March 2nd, 2009 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Kate Amin
We’re really chuffed that Mind the Gap has just installed itself in one of our commercial spaces at Lister Mills, Bradford. Mind the Gap is a professional theatre company that helps people with learning disabilities become professional actors, and helps actors with learning disabilities achieve their potential. We can’t wait to see their next performance!

Mind the Gap


Filed under: Bradford - tags: , ,
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