Butler’s Place: Guy Butler

Heather Butler speaks to Guy Butler, projects director, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, a driving force behind the development of Liverpool One.

Where are we?

Taking a stroll around Liverpool One. It's 42 acres of shops, homes, offices, hotels, restaurants and public spaces. I can't imagine I'll ever be involved with a project as large as this again. Each element was, in its own right, a big project. Together it is enormous. Grosvenor didn't own a thing, apart from a couple of small units, there were 275 different bits of land, £180m of acquisitions, with 30 different architects. It was a fantastic day when it opened in 2008.

What do you do?

I do deals. I find ways of doing deals that make development happen. Sometimes you have to be creative and innovative, which I enjoy, other times it's more straightforward. With Liverpool One I had 275 to do! The biggest was the Hilton, £60m in 2009. It was right at the bottom of the market, a very challenging time for everybody, so to complete was even more satisfying than usual.

What's on your desk?

I've had Liverpool One meetings all day, there's still some work to be finished. It's good to see the last plots progressing, there's the new NHS Walk In centre and a student accommodation scheme, and we're looking to have the whole of One Park West away by the spring.
But I'm predominantly down in London for most of the week working on schemes in Mayfair and Belgravia. London is very hot at the moment, it's still very quiet up here in comparison, but it's coming back. There's been a noticeable increase in demand for residential from buyers rather than renters.

How did you get started?

I always wanted to be a property developer, my dad was a butcher but had some properties and I suspect that's where the seed was sown. After a degree in land management and development in Reading, I did two years with Turnberry Consulting and qualified as a chartered surveyor. It turned out a couple of Grosvenor directors had gone to Reading and the course tutor approached me about an opportunity with this company I didn't know much about, but that was owned by the Duke of Westminster. I got very lucky and joined in 1999 as a junior surveyor and started as an assistant on the £330m Festival Place scheme in Basingstoke.

How come you're here?

I came up to Liverpool in 2002 as Rod Holmes' assistant, he looked after design and planning and I did the commercial land acquisition. He was a great leader, a visionary, he made all of this happen.

I moved up North and it really helped for me to be on the ground. I don't think you can do a £1.2bn development in Liverpool without living in the city and getting to know the people. You have to be truly committed to a project of this scale, it has to become your life, and it has been for 11 years.

What was a job well done?

I'm very proud of the mix of uses and the public realm at Liverpool One. As a regeneration scheme, that was important. Before the development not a single person lived in the 42 acres. Now there are three hotels, 700 apartments, there could be several thousand people living here, it has brought the space to life. The public spaces between the buildings and the way it links to other parts of the city are also a vital part of its success, it's an incredible development.

And the tougher times?

With a project as big as Liverpool One it's inevitable there will be some compulsory purchase orders. That can be a hard thing to do when you know it will affect someone's livelihood, but we tried to be as fair as possible. I'm still on good terms with everyone I met throughout the development, that has to be a good sign.

Do you ever relax?

Yes, I like cars and motorbikes, and spending time with my two little girls. The North West is my home now, we live in a little village in South Cheshire. I don't work weekends and try to separate work from family life.

But I also love what I do, it's a great company and they look after you. I've done some great things with them, just recently I've seen Fleetwood Mac at the O2 and the cricket at Lords. And I get to do deals, I love doing deals.

What's next?

It's every developer's dream is to do something for themselves and I hope one day there will be something I can get my teeth into. The timing would have to be right, the opportunity and the funding. But right now I'm loving what I'm doing and I've got a lot to do with Grosvenor yet.

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