When people think of airports, more often than not, they think of somewhere they travel through, not to, writes Lynda Shillaw, chief executive of MAG Property.
With more than 250 million passengers using UK airports each year, it’s an easy association to make, but with a significant proportion of airport turnover generated by commercial activity in the business-to-business sector, airports are home to a thriving network of diverse operations. But it’s not just access to airside facilities that make airports useful places to operate. Increasingly, they’re commercial destinations in which people choose to do business.
In addition to passengers, UK airports handle more than two million tonnes of freight annually, provide 960,000 jobs and contribute an estimated £52bn GVA to the economy. The exceptional benefits global occupiers like this bring are clear, but it’s the ability of airports to serve as platforms for regeneration that makes them particularly valuable to the wider economy.
Change has become the new normal, with one side-effect being that work is increasingly something people do, rather than a place to go. This means the physical locations and places of work that do serve as communal hubs are having to accommodate the shifting expectations and working practices of those staff that interact with them.
Within the North West at Airport City Manchester, where almost one million sq ft of logistics space and 3,000 jobs have been created, we have a great opportunity to deliver a positive and lasting impact in the community. The completion of the new £15m link road unlocks land on which brand-new offices, hybrid facilities, hotels and leisure space will be built, brings many more opportunities and high-quality jobs to an area of outstanding connectivity and aspiration.
It’s not just about developing infrastructure and creating brilliant buildings. A conscious decision to invest early in the social and community fabric of Airport City Manchester gives occupiers, visitors and local people the chance to form a connection from the outset. An interactive event space encourages users to enjoy a wide range of pop-up activities from food, drink and entertainment, to education, talks and product launches.
Alongside sits an emphasis on health and wellbeing, to enable and promote a happier and healthier workforce and community. Cycling is at the heart of this, with high quality changing, storage and bike hire being complemented by safe and enjoyable routes to connect key locations; all designed to encourage a culture of cycling locally and beyond.
By understanding what’s important to a new generation, we are helping create a sense of place by proactively orchestrating the facilities, networks, activities, opportunities and attitude for great things to happen, far greater than those that would be realised by people and organisations working in isolation of each other.
The North West in 2018 series features guest contributors looking ahead to next year and is published throughout December.