Investment News | 25 June 2024

Talking Investment: ‘Derby’s rebirth is finally underway’

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One of Derby’s leading commercial property agents, Salloway Property Consultants, is this year celebrating 30 years in business. Here, in his own words, founder Stephen Salloway reflects on the last three decades – and explains why he believes Derby city centre has an exciting future ahead of it.

Salloway Property Consultants was established in 1994 – in an economic climate that was not dissimilar to today’s.

The country was recovering from recession with falling inflation from 11% down to 2% and interest rates down from 14% to 5%.

But 30 years ago, Derby was a very different place, and everything was city centre based.

If you wanted to eat out, have your hair cut or go shopping you came into the centre, so the streets were busy with cars and people.

The creation of Pride Park was an unwitting Achilles heel for the city really – it wasn’t intended to be a home for offices in the way it has become.

Equally, positioning the prime shopping centre at one end of the city has created a problem for the rest of the streets.

Few people will remember the other scheme on the table at the time, which I believe was in a better location and would certainly have helped with footfall.

There was talk of redeveloping Duckworth Square and Green Lane, linking through to St Peters Street and Victoria Street.

But it would have involved complex land assembly issues and possibly a CPO, which would have taken a very long time.

I do wonder how the city centre would look now if this plan had gone ahead instead of the Westfield (now Derbion) development.

Despite the enormous changes over the last three decades, which also includes the demise of the Assembly Rooms, I believe Derby’s rebirth is finally underway.

The £45.8 million entertainment and conference centre in Becketwell will act as a major catalyst to open the city as a repurposed leisure destination, while plans to reopen the Guildhall will bolster the improved cultural offering.

We need to change the reason for visiting the city from just wanting to buy something – be that goods or services – to having an experience.

Happily, this has already begun with the new entertainment venues, but so much more needs to be done.

The other way is to put houses in and some of the new major apartment blocks are doing just that.

But this has to keep happening, we can’t just put our toe in the water – we have to go for it wholeheartedly.

There needs to be some water in the city, with more greenery, more trees and pleasant walks.

We need to be keener to stop the anti-social behaviour; people need to feel safe.

I was once talking to a London-based developer about Derby and the fact it didn’t make much of its river.

He suggested we should consider moving or diverting the river!

It would be a huge feat of engineering and the cost would doubtless be prohibitive, but this out-of-the-box thinking is needed to bring about the sorts of changes I’d like to see.

Victora Street has so much potential because it’s a very wide street.

It would make perfect sense to open up Markeaton Brook that flows under it, making it a vibrant meeting place lined with cafes and bars.

In terms of the business, I hope Salloway will still be here in another 30 years’ time  – there will always be a built environment and while you have that you will always need surveyors.

We’ve established a strong foothold in the real estate business, and I hope my colleagues here will take the business forward.

I think the future will be about sustainability and implementing self-sufficiency wherever possible, utilising renewable energy sources.

A building is just an envelope for the process that goes on within it, and while its aesthetic appearance will always be important, increasingly it will be minimising the environmental impact that takes precedence.

Businesses will always have reasons to move, and properties will always be changing hands.

I am very proud of the work we have done in Derby and, like many other residents and business owners, I’m hopeful that the city’s resurgence will gather momentum and continue apace.

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