Latest News | 11 July 2024

Derby must be ‘bold and brave’ to become a ‘cool city’

Smith Partnership
Wavensmere Homes
St James Securities
Grainger Plc
Derby City Council
University of Derby
Cavendish & London Property Group
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During this year’s Derby Property Summit, some of the key players at the coalface of Derby’s ongoing regeneration took to the stage to showcase their projects – and give their own take on what the city needs to do to keep the momentum going.

Arguably one of the city’s most prolific investors at the moment is Wavensmere Homes.

The Birmingham-based developer has no less than three sizeable schemes at various stages in Derby city centre – the £175 million 925-home Nightingale Quarter scheme on the site of the former DRI, the £75 million Friar Gate Goods Yard mixed-use scheme, featuring 274 homes and a planning application under consideration for Cathedral One, which will deliver a further 195 apartments.

Managing director James Dickens told the summit that Wavensmere is aiming to deliver 2,000 homes within a 10-year period – and that the firm was already half-way through.

When asked what his key message to the summit would be, he said: “Be bold, be brave.

“I think Derby has got some tremendous attributes and we need to promote and shout about it more.

“If you build it, they will come. We’re bringing people back into the city centre to improve that vibrancy.

“If we get people living here, the night-time economy grows – the catalyst is getting people living here.”

Next up on stage was Paul Morris, director at St James Securities the company delivering the £200 million Becketwell regeneration scheme.

Phase one of the scheme, which consists of The Condor – a building belonging to Grainger Plc, which is made up of 259 build-to-rent apartments – and a new public square.

Phase two, which involves the creation of a new 3,500 capacity performance venue, to be operated by ASM Global and being constructed by Bowmer + Kirkland, is due to be completed in early 2025.

At the property summit, as well as sharing details about the first two phases, Paul also talked about future phases, which could feature new office accommodation and potentially more build-to-rent apartments and a hotel.

He also spoke about the ‘ripple effect’ of regeneration – and how the surrounding streets will “completely change” in five years’ time.

He told the property summit: “As a Leeds-based developer, we saw great potential in Derby and saw a beautiful city centre that was special and brought with it a lot of opportunity.

“The performance venue will attract 250,000 additional visitors to the city centre and that is a huge opportunity for the city. The ripple effect of regeneration on the surrounding areas is huge.

“Looking to 2025, I’ve never felt more optimistic than I am right now.”

When asked what his key message to the summit would be, Paul replied: “Positivity. We have a great message – we’ve just got to get it out there. The people here understand it – but it needs to go further than this room.”

Earlier this year, two companies were announced as Derby City Council’s preferred strategic development partner.

They are now working with the council, businesses and community stakeholders to develop their vision and designs for the regeneration of the city centre.

Joining the panel were Graham Lambert, managing director at VINCI UK Developments and Steve Parry, managing director at ION Developments.

Together they gave a presentation on the work that had been done so far on a project called The Cultural Heart of the City, which includes reimagining the Market Place and the redevelopment of the Assembly Rooms site to include cultural spaces, meeting areas, offices and retail.

Graham said: “We also feel there’s space in the city centre for a four-star hotel, that we’ve incorporated into the masterplan of the Assembly Rooms site among other cultural aspects.”

Explaining how these plans will compliment existing schemes, Steve said: “We aren’t competing against each other as developers in the city centre – if Becketwell is successful then we’ll be successful, and vice-versa.”

Tammy Whitaker, the city council’s director of city growth and vibrancy, then took to the stage to run through some of the schemes that are set to come online soon, which will add vibrancy to Derby.

These included the aforementioned Becketwell Performance Venue, along with the revamped Market Hall, the Eastern Gateway scheme, plans to revamp the Guildhall Theatre and the University of Derby’s new Business School.

Tammy said: “A lot of our students live in the city centre and the new Business School will be crucial in ensuring that students stay in the city.

“This move into the centre really highlights how important the university is for Derby.”

With all the new projects coming online next year – and more in the pipeline, Tammy said she believed Derby was on its way to becoming a destination city.

She said: “People remember visiting a ‘cool city’ – and I believe in five years’ time, Derby will be considered a cool city!”

As well as the major players, Derby’s army of smaller developers and investors have a crucial role to play in the city’s future.

Among them is Cavendish & London Property Group, a regional independent property developer, which has invested – and is continuing to invest – in properties within the city centre.

Managing director Atish Parmar said: “We chose to invest in Derby two to three years ago – and we are still doing so.

“We are part of the ripple effect. Our ambition is to bring in independent food and beverage businesses to these areas.

“The new performance venue is set to bring in 250,000 extra people next year – and we want to be part of that.”

A company that is already seeing the benefit of the city centre’s regeneration is law firm Smith Partnership, whose headquarters are in the heart of the city.

Danielle Upton, partner in commercial property at Smith Partnership, said: “Smith Partnership is a firm supporter of the city.

“When we found ourselves requiring new premises six years ago, we committed to stay in the city centre.

“It was a challenging decision for us, due to the lack of quality office space available. But with some creativity, we now have around 130 people working out of our offices in Friar Gate.

“So, we are right in the middle of all the action – and our staff are already seeing and feeling the benefits of all the regeneration, which is happening across the city.”

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