Matthew Smith says Nottingham must up its game in the office market
THIS month brings the biggest day of the season for Forest fans, when we travel to meet our deadly rivals at Derby's Pride Park. We're already on a hiding to nothing, having lost the reverse fixture at the City Ground in September.
Unfortunately, Derby's present pre-eminence is not only in the football stakes but in terms of its success at attracting job-creating inward investment projects. The HeroTSC call centre deal we advised on last year was significantly assisted by that city's innovative Property Regeneration Fund.
However, I think we can all help bridge the latter gap, by adopting new tactics to attract major employers, especially after news that the HS2 line is likely to skirt Nottingham, by using a station close to junction 25 of the M1 at Toton sidings.
It's not all bad news, of course. Midland Mainline is investing £500m in electrifying its London-Sheffield line, between 2014-2019, meaning faster links from Nottingham and other East Midlands stations, but regardless of infrastructure projects, we have to get our economic regeneration strategy absolutely right.
Dyson DC50i - Bagless upright vacuum cleaner - BALL Technology -...View details
Thisi is Dyson's smallest upright vacuum cleaner with the performance of a full size upright machine. The DC50i has Dyson's most advanced cleaner head technology and 2 Tier RadialTM cyclones.
Terms: LIMITED STOCK OFFER. FREE delivery to most UK postcodes - Next working day dispatch.
Contact: 01664 491439
Valid until: Monday, May 27 2013
We certainly have serious potential – and talent – within the Team Nottingham squad.
I know that Invest in Nottingham is trying its very hardest, with a small budget, and Nottingham Regeneration Ltd is led by Mike Taylor, who played a significant role in such major mixed-use schemes as Snowhill, The Mailbox and the CUBE in Birmingham.
We also have such positives as the expansion of the NET network, the City Deal and a 140-acre Enterprise Zone, looking to build on the tremendous achievements of Bio-City.
However, we can never reap the benefits of all those elements within Nottingham's offer unless we can work out how to deliver significant chunks of Grade A office space in the city centre. It's certainly a major challenge, not least as we have limited deliverable sites where major schemes could be brought forward but, more importantly, where occupiers are prepared to go.
Historically, 55 per cent of office transactions in Nottingham have been in the city centre, so you argue that some of the focus needs to be there, rather than trying to just regenerate fringe sites, not least as the spin-off benefits are so much greater.
Take the E.on deal. It created 800 jobs right in the centre, which also benefited the city's hotels and brought evening business to its bars and restaurants, which wouldn't have happened had it gone out of town.
Refurbishing tired stock might well work in a more buoyant market but in the current climate, the economics don't really stack up, as the city's property values are too low.
What's the answer then?
First, I think we need to swallow our pride, to accept that Derby and other Midland locations are putting up some serious competition – and to have mature conversations about how we can improve our offer and perform much better in the regional employment stakes.
It's often said that the first step in tackling any problem is recognising that it exists, and making sure we don't slip behind.
Secondly, we need to consider new tactics, and I think there is a potential solution – and that all the elements are already here. We just need to adopt a different mindset about how to deliver Grade A space in the city core .
I look to what has been achieved in Manchester, where the developer Argent is bringing forward 280,000 sq ft of brand-new space at One St Peter's Square, through a joint venture with the Greater Manchester Property Venture Fund, which is the local authority's investment vehicle.
It's very much a partnership for our times, because Argent wouldn't have the funding to proceed with such a massive scheme without the certainty and financial support of its public sector partner.
I think such an innovative approach would work for Team Nottingham, if private sector developers could be persuaded to tackle new city centre office schemes, via a joint venture with the city council.
What do you think? E -mail firstname.lastname@example.org