Chester’s debut at the international property festival could signal the start of a higher profile for the city at MIPIM in future, with talk of plans to take a stand in the main conference hall, Palais des Festivals, next year.
Chester Growth Partnership, the latest iteration of development board Chester Renaissance, attended MIPIM to showcase key priorities for the city; infrastructure, investment, dwell and housing, alongside communication at a local, regional and national level.
The partnership presented opportunities available to investors across Chester, presented in an investment map commissioned jointly with Cheshire West & Chester Council. Promoted sites included the £300m Northgate, £100m Central Business Quarter, and £37m cultural centre, Storyhouse.
Chester Growth Partnership is made up of volunteers from the private sector, led by Guy Butler, chief executive of developer Glenbrook.
Speaking to Place North West, Butler explained the main priorities which are set to form the centre of the partnership’s two-year business plan, to be launched formally in June.
Butler said: “We’ve tried to keep it really simple, and have broken down what we need to do in Chester into some clear targets.
“For homes, we’re looking at identifying five sites to deliver the first new homes in the city centre in a decade, in partnership with Redrow.
“Increasing dwell time in the city is important, and we’ve currently got historic assets that aren’t being utilised. The Castle and the walls are the next big opportunity for Chester. The walls are not accessible, and they could be a source of revenue. Our plan includes looking at how to increase the popularity of the Chester Roman walls, and potentially monetise them.”
Like all Northern cities, public transport was also high on the list of desired improvements.
“Public transport is a disgrace,” said Butler. “We don’t mind people going to Manchester, but the goal is to get them to earn in Manchester and then spend in Chester. That will be made more likely to happen through better public transport, and with a train that should only take 40 minutes.”
Currently the fastest train service between Manchester and Chester takes one hour.
Butler also conceded that previous growth initiatives had not spent enough time on a clear communication strategy, and said that he was prioritising “engaging with the council and local community.”
In terms of commercial opportunities, the Growth Partnership would spotlight Chester’s historic strength in providing offices for the financial and professional sectors.
“The investment map was created to showcase the long-established financial services hub here, but also companies which have either moved here more recently, such as Bristol Myers Squibb and Tetra Pak,” said Butler.
“With the arrival of the 70,000 sq ft One City Place by Chester railway station we’ve taken the first step in the creation of a new business district in the city centre. There is much more to come. Current investments in the city total around £700m and we’ve outlined the vision that by 2028 Chester will offer up to 500,000 sq ft of Grade A space.”
Chester’s presence at MIPIM was supported by Muse Developments, Marketing Cheshire, Influential, Redrow, DTM Legal and Glenbrook Property.