The Flintshire bricklayer who created a £250m contracting, development and housebuilding group employing more than 500 people at its peak and pioneered regeneration in Liverpool with the success of Princes Dock in the mid to late 1990s, has passed away suddenly.
McLean established his company in the early 1970s and was responsible for building thousands of homes across North Wales and the North West, as well as warehouses at Deeside industrial estate where the company was based.
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When David McLean Developments was picked by Mersey Docks & Harbour Company as joint venture partner to try and transform derelict land at Princes Dock, Liverpool, the city was not a strong market in which to attempt development, recalls Stuart Keppie, who was retained as letting agent on the scheme.
“At the time, I was at Richard Ellis as it was then [now CBRE], and it was the only office development in town. In the mid to late ’90s it was quite pioneering because it was considered off-pitch over the wrong side of the Strand and wasn’t going to be attractive to the market. It pre-dated Beetham’s rise and was ground-breaking, ballsy stuff, when nobody else was doing it. And it worked.”
The JV between McLean and MDHC, called Princes Dock Development Company, built 130,000 sq ft of speculative office space across two buildings and the 160-bed four-star Crowne Plaza hotel, next to the Strand and facing the Royal Liver Building. The introduction of Crowne Plaza to the city, using McLean’s contacts, resulted in the first new hotel built in Liverpool for many years and helped to change the perception of the city’s hotel market a decade before the European Capital of Culture year in 2008.
Jim Gill, then regional director of public agency English Partnerships, which, along with the earlier Merseyside Development Corporation, funded the reclamation and roads into Princes Dock, said: “It’s very shocking and sad news. David was a heck of a guy, with a great lust for life. He started with nothing and built up such a big business. Princes Dock was very important for Liverpool and changed the quality of the offer available.”
Ian Pollitt, assistant project director at Liverpool Waters and ex-MDHC, said McLean was “pugnacious, forceful, dynamic” but also “good company”. Pollitt learned of his death at an Everton FC awards dinner last night where guests shared memories of McLean, who was a keen Evertonian and at one time was linked with a takeover of the club, which never materialised.
David McLean Developments sold its stake in the Princes Dock Development Company to MDHC in 2002. MDHC was acquired a few years later by Peel and the docks now form part of the massive Liverpool Waters development portfolio.
McLean’s business empire collapsed weighed down by £100m of debt in the financial crisis of 2008.
The company had pre-recession development agreements at Liverpool’s International Garden Festival, with Langtree, and the Altair scheme in central Altrincham, with Nikal.
The housing division’s assets were acquired by managers who left to form Elan Homes, based in Cheshire Oaks.
McLean remained actively involved in charitable and community projects including redeveloping a hotel eyesore in Abersoch and donating land at his Flintshire mansion, Soughton House, for use as allotments.
The alumni of senior property people who worked for McLean includes Richard Dean, land director at Knight Knox; Bill Addy, chief executive of Liverpool BID Company; Mark McNamee, managing director of Cityheart in Chester, among many more. Richard Dean, who worked with McLean for eight years, latterly as managing director, said: “He was a great guy. His passion and desire stood out and he was extremely proud that his business supported so many people in the local area.”
Daughter Jane McLean told the Daily Post that his death on 30 April had come as a “total shock”. She told the North Wales newspaper: “We are devastated and he is missed dreadfully.”
The funeral is due to be held in Northop Church on Tuesday 16 May at 1.15pm.
BUSINESS TIMELINE – David McLean, developer, contractor, housebuilder, 1943-2017
1971 David McLean Homes is established
1978 David McLean Holdings is incorporated
1980 Turnover passes £2m, producing profit of £164,000
1990 Turnover £20m, profit £2m
Late 1990s Develops Crowne Plaza, and offices at Princes Dock; 360 apartments at City Quay, Liverpool
2002 Turnover £112m, profit £4m
2004 Turnover £204m, profit £8m
Trafford Council selects a joint venture partnership between David McLean and Nikal as preferred developer on the Altair site in Altrincham
MAY 2005 Joint venture between Langtree – since renamed Network Space – and David McLean Group is granted a 99-year lease on the Festival Garden site by Liverpool City Council, with plans to develop a leisure and retail park
SEPTEMBER 2005 White House Hotel in Abersoch is sold to a joint venture between David McLean and restaurateur Chris Chown, with plans to redevelop the site into a hotel, spa and brasserie
JUNE 2006 Group turnover hits £279m, with profit of £5m
JANUARY 2007 McLean’s contracting division is forced to close a residential building site for Iliad Group for six months at Elysian Fields, Liverpool, following a fatal accident in which a crane collapsed on a worker
JUNE 2007 A residential conversion of the Albany Building, Liverpool, on which David McLean is the contractor, collapses into administration as the building’s special purpose vehicle is put into liquidation
JUNE 2007 Turnover peaks at £253m, producing a £5m loss after interest charges
DECEMBER 2007 Elysian Fields is topped out
JANUARY 2008 David McLean Group announces 50 job losses
MARCH 2008 Planning consent is granted for £150m Nikal and David McLean Homes JV at Altair
MAY 2008 David McLean Group announces 30 job losses
JULY 2008 City Lofts Group goes into administration, causing an end to the JV development at Trinity Dock, part of the Kings Waterfront development that now includes the Arena & Convention Centre Liverpool.
Plans are passed for the Garden Festival site, in a joint venture between David McLean and Langtree
OCTOBER 2008 Health & Safety Executive announces it will not pursue a prosecution following the death at the Elysian Fields construction site
David McLean Holdings and its trading subsidiaries David McLean Contractors, David McLean Developments and David McLean Homes go into administration, with debts of £70m to banks and up to £30m to contractors and suppliers. 134 staff are made redundant
Langtree pays £400,000 to buy out the stake of joint venture partner David McLean Group from the administrators, and creates a special purpose vehicle for the development called Langtree Garden Festival
NOVEMBER 2008 Former directors of David McLean Homes set up Elan Homes and acquire the assets of David McLean Homes and Holdings, saving 90 jobs
MARCH 2009 Nikal buys out the shares of McLean in the joint venture for Altair
NOVEMBER 2009 Langtree submits revised planning application for the Garden Festival site
JANUARY 2014 Nikal is granted outline planning permission for the Altair site, in partnership with Trafford Council and Altrincham Forward
JUNE 2015 Having bought out David McLean’s shares in a joint venture partnership to develop the Garden Festival site, Langtree hands the site back to Liverpool City Council, after a 10-year deadline passes for the developer to draw down two 150-year leases
FEBRUARY 2016 Derelict White House Hotel is demolished for redevelopment by Broomco, one of McLean’s companies, with plans for a new hotel, spa and brasserie set to open in spring 2018
FEBRUARY 2017 Nikal submits a detailed planning application for the second stage of development at the £70m 4.15-acre Altair site in Altrincham
Images courtesy of The Daily Post