Place10: Musings from the other city

Place10 logoMuse Developments coincidentally shares its birthday with Place North West, writes joint managing director Matt Crompton. Just over 10 years ago, on 27 July 2007, Amec Developments was acquired by Morgan Sindall Group and the Muse brand was born.

My 20 years of property development and regeneration experience had not prepared me for the opportunities and challenges that a corporate acquisition entails. Maintaining momentum within the business whilst dealing with corporate due diligence demands, reassuring colleagues that the future was bright (as it has been), and developing a new brand in time for the announcement was a career highlight. Despite the recession following on immediately, we remained profitable, increasing our turnover, headcount and, crucially, return on equity to the Morgan Sindall Group.

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If one scheme epitomises how complex, challenging and rewarding regeneration can be, it’s Salford Central, which has been in the making for more than 10 years. Rewind to summer 2007, the beginnings of the financial crisis, and the newly established Muse, through its English Cities Fund joint venture with L&G and the Homes & Communities Agency, was working closely with Salford City Council on the overall planning guidance for the Salford Central regeneration area. It was an ambitious plan to transform 50 acres of the city’s historic and civic core, which had suffered serious decline over the years, into a vibrant new commercial district and community. The scheme has the potential to deliver a total of three million sq ft of new development, including over 2.2 million sq ft of commercial space, 280,000 sq ft of active uses, a hotel, 849 new homes and create 11,000 new jobs. There were many doubters but, crucially, key believers in the vision and deliverability.

ECf and the Council used the time during the downturn productively, working hard to ensure we were ready to start on site when the market recovered. The development framework concluded in 2009, outline planning consent was achieved in 2010, with the CPO process and land assembly both completing in 2012. The partnership persevered throughout the tough times, never missing a milestone. It required an unwavering confidence in the location’s inherent strengths and the belief that once the market picked up, with all the necessary preparatory work completed, we would be in a position to hit the ground running.

Following a nine-year gestation period, the first project started on site in 2013 and to date the wider scheme has already delivered 135,000 sq ft commercial space, 223 homes, 615 parking spaces, 143 hotel rooms and public realm, amounting to over £150m in development. In 2016, the first office development, One New Bailey, succeeded in attracting magic-circle law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, in a deal that would represent true inward investment, the principle of Northshoring and the largest city centre inward investment letting in over a decade.

The next 12 months promise to be just as significant in Salford, with new offices, residential and multi-storey car park all starting on site, equating to a further £160m of investment.

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