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Perception, perception, perception?

24 March 2011

Anna King

Thoughts turned to the public perception of the property sector at this year’s Mipim conference in Cannes, after several high-profile arrests, reports Anna King.


Mipim, the annual property forum in Cannes, acts as a health-check of the market, part of which takes place before delegates even arrive. The price of a flight (a cool £650 in my case this year – reasonable by Mipim standards), the sheer number of invitations and locations for receptions, lunches and presentations and the quantity of press releases received, all give an indication of what to expect in the week ahead.

Despite attendance figures being similar to last year, reportedly up 7 per cent to 18, 600 (investors comprising a vital 25 per cent of that figure), it was still nowhere near the dizzy heights of 2007/2008.

Yet this was a very positive Mipim, as Gill Parker, joint managing director of design business BDG workfutures, explains: “Mipim is just about the best barometer of the marketplace. The cautious optimism I observed reinforces just how delicate recovery will be, but it is happening and there is a lot of action in the pipeline. The bankers were present not because they felt they should be but because they have money to invest in schemes that will boost opportunity for business.”

A couple of reports prior to the event had suggested that the flashy yachts would be back in abundance along with returning market confidence and that the property fold had brushed themselves off and were ready for a week of self-congratulation and celebration.
However, any bullish behaviour would have felt unseemly after the arrest of the Tchenguiz brothers in connection with the collapse of the Icelandic Kaupthing bank. As well as being a moment of high drama among the Mipim crowd, it was a timely reminder of the public perception of the wealthier factions of the sector, while also re-emphasising the need to talk about why Mipim counts back in the real world.

Why it all matters
And it really does matter. While a cynical eye may question the wisdom of many County Councils spending public money on a gathering like Mipim, the reality is that they have to be there to ensure that their region – be it Manchester, Birmingham or Leeds – is well and truly on the map for investment, which will create jobs and improve the standard of living from which many will benefit.

We operate in a global economy and this recession has proved more than ever that no-one can rely on one source of funding. The merging of public and private money was very much an underlying theme, Alex King, co-chair of the UK Country of Honour steering committee explained that as the UK government get to grips with the national debt, there would be new opportunities for investment in the country’s infrastructure. 
He anticipates a new variation on the public-private partnership (PPP) arrangements that have gone before.

A true trump card for the UK this year was the accolade of being named as Mipim 2011 Country of Honour. Mipim & Mapic Asia director, Filippo Rean explained why: “The UK has played a vital role in the creation of cross-border investment and the real-estate sector becoming international,” he said. “London remains Europe’s largest financial centre.” This gave the UK contingent the perfect opportunity to remind those willing to listen of some key achievements; for example, the enduring influence of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors through its Red Book; and the Building Research Establishment’s most successful innovation, the BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) which is now used all over the world, with more than 200 ‘000’ buildings certified and over a million more registered for certification.

Destination London
Of course, we cannot forget the Olympics, which is huge in terms of property investment and legacy. For those with a keen investment eye, the international spotlight has been well and truly shone on East London. Property consultants CB Richard Ellis estimates that since 2007, almost 360,000 sq ft of offices, 70,000 sq ft of shops and 2,700 homes have been developed across Stratford, Canary Wharf, Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks.

As the new property world begins to take shape, I also observed FM and property departments strengthening their links – possibly the result of having to consider multiple bottom lines that include finances, sustainability as well as the social interaction of the people that occupy the buildings.

As a long-term attendee of eight years and exhibitor for the last four, David Clements of Future Designs, a business that designs and supplies lighting solutions to major blue chip clients, thinks that times are changing: “Mipim is evolving and Future Designs is proof of this. There is more synergy now between FM divisions and the developers, construction companies and fit-out contractors, which is influenced by the constant drive to reduce carbon usage.”
David goes on to explain why Mipim is still a very powerful tool for business. “Our client base seems to have more time and inclination when away from the day-to-day dramas that confront us all at home. Additionally, I see many people just by chance who perhaps I don’t have contact with in the UK. Mipim brings people together.”

It is clear that before the economy recovers, collaboration and co-operation will be key – let us hope this remains at the forefront of business strategies as the financial benefits start to roll in again. 


Award categories

BUSINESS CENTRES
Chèque Déjeuner Headquarters at Carré 92
Gennevilliers, France
Architect: Art & Build Architect
Execution architect: Jean-Paul Rozé
Developer: AG Real Estate

FUTURA PROJECTS

Sustainable Urban Redevelopment
Takamatsu, Yamaguchi, Nagahama, Numadu, Ohita 
(five cities), Japan
Planner & Architect: Tokyo University Machizukuri Graduate School
All projects, Planner & Architect: Machidukuri Company Sheep Network
Takamatsu project, Developer: Takamatsu Marugame-machi Machidukuri.
Yamaguchi project, Developer: Machidukuri Yamaguchi.
Nagahama project, Developer: Nagahama Machidukuri.
Numadu project, Developer: Life Style Center Numadu Minami

GREEN BUILDINGS
3M Italy headquarters, Malaspina Business Park
Pioltello – Milan, Italy
Investor & User: 3M Italia SpA
Architect: Mario Cucinella Architects
Developer: Prelios

HOTELS & TOURISM RESORTS
The Park Hotel Hyderabad
Hyderabad, India
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Developer: Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels

REFURBISHED OFFICE BUILDING
First Tower
Paris La Défense, France
Redeveloper & Project Manager: Altarea Cogedim
Investors: AXA REIM / BEACON CAPITAL PARTNERS
Owner: BEACON CAPITAL PARTNERS
Architects: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and SRA Architectes

RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENTS
Savonnerie Heymans Brussels, Belgium
Architect: MDW Architecture
Developer: CPAS de Bruxelles
As part of the Country of Honor program, the jury has also awarded the best project located in the UK:

W Hotel
London, United Kingdom
Architect and Interior Designer: Jestico + Whiles
Developer: McAleer + Rushe