MIPIM 2015: Ten themes from this week in Cannes

Manchester and Liverpool both took their biggest delegations ever to the property conference in Cannes, with more than 100 partners between them heading to the sun for what some called “the property industry fresher’s week”, writes Jessica Middleton-Pugh. With MIPIM now in its 26th year, and the second conference since the global economy started its gradual upturn at the end of 2013, the Croisette was filled both with familiar and fresh faces. A strong contingent of advisors proved that the market really was back, with plenty of planners, architects and lawyers mixing with returning investors and developers. Plenty of interesting conversations flowed in favoured venues such as the Manchester Bar, La Mandala beach restaurant, and of course the Manchester and Liverpool stands inside the convention centre. Here are 10 themes to summarise the North West highlights:

Make hay while the sun is shining, and it really was shining. If the message from MIPIM 2014 was “the market is back”, this year it was “what do we do with it now that it’s back?” The options felt endless after several years of recession, and even an industrial market barely out of the doldrums was heard described as “sexy”…

First time for everything. After an optimistic delegation returned home last year, the rest of the property industry in the North West obviously felt that they had missed out. There were plenty of newcomers to the MIPIM scene; not only younger team members but also experienced and established players who decided that 2015 was the year to break the MIPIM seal. Cue several dazed and blistered attendees commenting that they regretted teasing their boss for being so tired after having a jolly in the sun…

We are family. All this enthusiasm led to 76 partners signing up to be part of the Manchester delegation, which for the most part acted like one big gang, swarming between stand and bar and back again. The high spirits began before the Ryanair flight had even left Manchester Airport, with the packed plane getting told off by flight attendants for talking so loudly the safety announcements couldn’t be heard.

Don’t forget to work hard. Flight attendants weren’t the only ones wagging the finger on day one. Manchester City Council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein gave a very headmasterly opening speech at the Villa on Monday evening, with a stern “we’re under intense scrutiny this week, and people want to report the bad side”. Council spending at MIPIM was under more scrutiny than ever this year, with an increase in media attendance and a sense that the local authority bods were all watching their backs.

Connectivity and collaboration… These were the buzzwords for cities across the North – Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle coming together for the Northern Powerhouse event, stressing the importance of improving transport links, keeping graduates, and wresting some power away from the ever-dominant London.

…although not always co-ordinated. Despite claims to be working together to deliver a united front for the North West, the timing of events at the Manchester and Liverpool stands left much to be desired. With stands at opposite sides of the vast Palais des Festival, direct event clashes or impossibly short transition periods meant that many who would have attended both stands were forced to choose, with the indomitable Manchester generally emerging as the winner.

Know your greatest asset. Liverpool and Manchester obviously came to MIPIM with clear messages in mind. For the former, it was driving home the significance of the £300m Liverpool2 deep water container terminal being delivered by Peel. With a terminal designed to enable Liverpool to handle the largest container ships and potentially reversing the current South-centric UK freight delivery system, the impact could not be overestimated by the Liverpool team, which included 30 official partners.

Keep calm and carry on. While for Manchester, despite the city’s devolution agreement and massive headway in relations with central government since the last MIPIM, Bernstein hit the event circuit with a “steady as she goes” message, offering carefully weighted words about developing a roadmap, gaining experience, and looking at what benefits can be secured for the city in the short term rather than being over-ambitious and chasing Government for promises that may never be delivered.

Build on what we have. Allied London’s striking vertical village concept at St John’s notwithstanding, most of the big developers took to the stand with news that consolidated gains that had already been made at their sites. Shinier marketing materials, fleshed-out concepts, and timescales for delivery at sites such as NOMA, Airport City, Salford Central and Liverpool Waters brought few surprises, but many reassurances that the biggest names are getting down to business.

Viability, viability, viability. For all of the positive talk, the market returned to MIPIM with a “once bitten, twice shy” mind-set. Stand events and meetings focused on delivering quality and solidity, rather than being caught up in the glamour of vague promises. As the development cycle really heats up and a host of developers promise plans which could change the skyline of the North West forever, the ghosts of many schemes which never made it through the downturn still linger.

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It’s a shame that Manchester is not co-operating more with Liverpool to make sure that events don’t clash. I think Manchester prefers to sideline Liverpool where possible but this is not in the interest of wider region to the west of Manchester, particualrly north east Wales, West Cheshire and the rest of the broader Liverpool city region. I know Manchester might have benefited from Liverpool’s decline in the 80s and 90s but a powerful and prosperous north west will depend as much on Liverpool as Manchester.

By Paul Blackburn

Takes two to tango! Just because Manchester has taken the lead in the past in improving itself shouldn’t mean they should be scolded for it! Yes I agree both city’s need to work harder at communication! But so does the whole north west/north region.

By Northwich, manchester south

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