The regions are set to become the new centre of the UK’s property world in the coming years, with predictions that the secondary market will outperform prime during the recovery from global economic meltdown.
John Orchard, a director of Lingfield Point, believes what is happening at their business park in Darlington, is shining a light on a better way of getting the most out of regional property – and setting a money-making trend for others to follow.
John says the opportunities for commercial success in the regions are considerable and cites several reasons that they are now reaping the rewards of its investment in the 107 acre former Patons & Baldwins wool factory site.
With construction underway on eco homes Lingfield Point is set to become Europe’s largest mixed-use sustainable development and a return to its glory days at the heart of the Darlington.
John takes a holistic view of property development – mind, body and soul – by looking after the physical appearance, the ethos and culture, and most importantly, the ‘feelings’ experienced by its customers.
And therein lies one of the answers to why it is so successful – its tenants are ‘customers’ and it borrows its gold standard management approach from the hospitality industry.
Lingfield Point believes in working with the best and it’s no coincidence that the site was master-planned by architects FAT, or that it won the BCO Award for the UK’s best offices and five years later had that reaffirmed with a second win with the Test of Time Award.
John also worked with designers Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway to establish the UK’s first ever Festival of Thrift, perfectly set around the reclaimed, recycled, upcycled buildings that comprise Lingfield Point.
The festival, a very timely, fun-filled ‘celebration of everyday sustainable living’, was a massive success, taking everyone by surprise and attracting 27,000 visitors over a weekend. This massive community event put the finishing touches to a development that is rapidly becoming a textbook example of place-making at its best.
Design, architecture and art are at the heart of all things Lingfield Point – attention to details is obvious everywhere you go in Lingfield Point from the tiny Please don’t stay off the grass signs, to the vast public works of art, the sweeping original art deco staircase and the threaded corridors of the YARN building.
Doing business in the regions, especially, the North East is a different thing from in London. In London, property companies can complete deals without ever seeing the client – the agent speaks to the agent. In the North East they like to meet face-to-face, look you in the eye and shake hands – it’s a much more personal way of doing business. It’s hard work to attract top class customers, and at Lingfield Point we have some fantastic customers, the national Student Loans Company, AMEC and NAAFI to name a few. It’s hard to attract them so we work hard to keep them happy.
Our customers want to keep their staff, they don’t want the churn or the expense of training new staff. Many have a young workforce – they want a trendy workplace and things to keep them engaged.
We recognised that and addressed it. We regularly ask our customers what they want and do our best to give it to them. We offer ‘added value’ in everything we do and it is not by chance the number of people working out of Lingfield Point just keeps going up and up.
We programme regular events to engage our customers, from cycling group and fitness classes to a knitting circle, bees and allotments, there’s something laid on most days. We have remodelled our on-site team to provide a hotel style concierge service. Our artist in residence provides classes in weaving and felting and her classes are packed.
We know that’s unusual in the rather macho world of property where creativity is often a bit of a dirty word.
We also unashamedly hook up with top people – like FAT and like Wayne Hemingway – to bring something different and something that makes a tangible difference to the way our customers feel about us.
It is a big deal for a business park in Darlington to be winning national awards, especially one that was built in the 1950’s. The Memphis Building won the BCO National Award for Best Recycled Workplace when it opened in 2009 and five years on has just been awarded the BCO National ‘Test of Time’ Award.
Ok you can’t put a meter on it, but the combination of all of this extra effort means we are punching above our weight and despite the awful economic climate over the last five years our income keeps on rising.
In his blog, Wayne Hemingway recently wrote
Rather than flatten the site and go with soulless new build, as is so often the case, Marchday lovingly and artistically started to bring these evocative mid-century factory buildings back to life.
Now there are more than 2,500 people working there, for dozens of companies, a cool canteen, child care nursery and now homes are being built in some of the open spaces on the site.
We were taken aback by the attention to detail and couldn’t think of a better example of up-cycling of old industrial buildings in the UK. If it had been in London rather than Darlington it would be being used as an exemplar by Government agencies and the media.
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