US30 - We’ve blazed a trail over the last three decades
Like many a party goer up and down the country, we’ve had a great time celebrating our 30th birthday, reminiscing on all that we’ve achieved. But now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get ready for the future, as Urban Splash continues into its next era. Propelled by the trailblazing spirit that’s got us this far, we look forward to continuing to create new homes, workspaces and neighbourhoods country wide.
In this article, the latest in our US30 series, our new CEO Julian Curnuck reflects on what we’ve learned, and what’s yet to come.
It’s been a year to remember; we celebrated our 30th birthday and I took on the role of CEO – after 16 years as CFO of the business – so there have been some important milestones all round.
During our three decades in business, we’ve always been on the look-out for new regeneration opportunities – eagerly waiting for the right ones to come around.
So it was fantastic to grasp new schemes this year, including the news in the summer that we’d been appointed as preferred bidder to take on the future of the iconic Cole Brothers building in Sheffield. We have some great ideas to re-imagine the building and bring a vibrant mixed-use offer with substantial areas of the building reopening for the public.
From a corporate perspective, we also announced two new important partnerships, a £10m financing deal with Grosvenor which will assist with funding the early stages of developments and a new joint venture with fellow-Manchester developers, Glenbrook to bring forward the first phase of a scheme in Milton Keynes.
The challenges in the commercial property market have been widely reported but against that backdrop, we have been able to maintain our occupancy and attract new customers to our buildings, securing more than 50,000 sq ft of lettings and welcoming, amongst others, businesses including Rip Curl, The Pearl and Amscan International to our portfolio.
We’ve also seen that success extend to the Urban Splash Residential Fund; the Fund is very important to the wider Urban Splash business - an important partner in bringing a high-level rental offer to our residential schemes. It's been impressive to see the Fund double the size of its portfolio, and continue to deliver a strong operational performance whilst also building resilience having successfully secured a £20m revolving credit facility deal with Barclays this summer.
As we look ahead, I’m excited about more joint opportunities and initiatives with the Fund, building on our successful 6-year partnership.
Never Standing Still
Urban Splash has been my work home for nearly two decades and there have been many career and company milestones in that time that I can look back on and be proud of. These have all resulted from the vision of our founders and the collective effort of our Urban Splash team which has often blazed a trail, tried things out and generally had a go when others might have thought twice.
We’ve invested in new ideas and they’ve not always paid off but we have done this with the sole aim of making things better than we found them by using great design and having a shared commitment of bringing to life new communities for people to live, work and play in.
So, while I can reflect warmly on all that we have accomplished, as we near the end of our 30th year, I’m putting my mind to the next 30 years which present a whole new set of challenges, not least the impacts of climate change and technology and the varied needs of different types of customers across multiple generations.
I’m lucky to be working with a very talented team putting plans in place to make sure both our business and our new neighbourhoods and commercial buildings meet our high standards and are future-proofed. Campbell Park Northside in Milton Keynes is just one of those new neighbourhoods. We’re in the early design stages here, but our ambition is to develop a new neighbourhood of around 1,500-new homes. Our joint venture partnership with Glenbrook will help unlock the first part of the scheme and we hope a forthcoming planning application will enable us to start working on the delivery of 450-apartments set in acres of green space.
We’re also progressing plans for other opportunities such as our schemes at Swansea and Windermere and are looking to complete the final phases at the award-winning neighbourhood of New Islington in Manchester.
Working in joint ventures with like-minded peers has been a real positive for the business over the last 10 years as we’ve strived to bring neighbourhoods to life. Our partnership with Places for People being a great example; together we’ll continue to deliver the final phases of Park Hill in Sheffield and are looking to accelerate the development of Port Loop in Birmingham where we’re onsite with a new phase of homes – including 58 dual aspect apartments designed by architects shedkm. We’ve also submitted a planning application for 500 new homes in the next phases.
Investing in talent
All of this wouldn’t be possible without our people, and we’re fortunate to have a talented team in place. We hope to keep building on that and are always on the lookout for new colleagues who have a positive outlook and share our passion and values.
To respond to future challenges we have created new roles in the business and continue to invest in our team, welcoming 10 new colleagues into Urban Splash since the start of this year – with plans to grow the team further in 2024.
Learning from the past
Inevitably, you don’t turn 30 without making a few mistakes along the way and we’re no exception.
We’re proud pioneers and at times have taken leaps into the unknown well aware there’s inherent risk attached to doing anything new. Whilst we have rightly taken the opportunity this year to celebrate our past successes, it’s understanding and learning from the mistakes you make and indeed, the failures, that really matter if you are going to grow as a business and succeed in the future.
We actively encourage a frank and honest discussion across the business about what’s worked and what’s not and as importantly, why not. This understanding, together with our wealth of experience, has been used to make important changes and better prepare us for the future ahead.
We’ve learned from everything that we’ve done, and I believe we are better for it. We remain undeterred and are as inspired as ever. We now look forward to developing both our future facing neighbourhood model which will allow us to do our bit in delivering more of the much-needed, right type of new homes in the right places and our approach to flexible workspaces which meet the future needs of our customers.
We have always been a purpose led regeneration and property business aiming to leave a positive mark on the world by using great design and transformative ideas, to breathe new life into undervalued buildings and places – and this hasn’t changed. How we do this going forward will be different, particularly with climate and carbon footprint issues at the fore, but we will set the bar high and continue to create exemplary, multi-use, multi tenure new places where our customers of all ages can put down roots and enjoy their time both in and out of work.
I’m proud of the past, and I’m excited about the future. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and crack on.
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