What was the rationale for forming Queensberry Real Estate (QRE)?
The idea to form QRE started when Multi Corporation decided, in 2010, to wind down its UK operation based in Belfast. The team had been enormously successful as a regional office for the pan European developer completing major regeneration schemes in Belfast (Victoria Square) and Bath (Southgate).
Although Multi decided to reduce its international exposure the local management team agreed that there would be opportunities in the future as market conditions improved. Jon Munce, Stuart Harris and I decided to form QRE in 2011 with Multi as our first client. The office was located in London (Mayfair) and we spent the next two years asset managing the wind down of Multi’s UK business while simultaneously building up our own.
What is the business model followed?
QRE is set up as a developer of city centre retail led regeneration schemes and a development manager and asset manager of retail and leisure assets. The 11 team members are experienced in leasing, marketing, project management, property management, development and finance. As Chief Executive I am responsible for new business, investor relations and local authority joint ventures; Jon Munce is Development Director, overseeing our growing number of developments and refurbishment schemes on site and in planning, while Stuart Harris, Commercial Director, is responsible for retailer relations and the leasing and marketing of all developments and existing assets under management.
What is the company’s development pipeline for the future?
Friars Walk in Newport, South Wales is QRE’s principle development scheme currently under construction. A 390,000sq ft new retail and leisure complex in the heart of the city centre. Friars Walk has been carefully designed to link in to the city’s existing retail pitches and engage with the waterfront and other leisure uses nearby. Units have been designed to appeal to national, regional and local operators. The site is already 60 per cent let with confirmed names including Debenhams, Cineworld, Topshop, New Look and a host of restaurant operators: Prezzo, Nando’s, Frankie & Benny’s, Cosmo, GBK and Chiquito. Queensberry took over the site in March this year, construction is well underway and the scheme is due to open autumn 2015.
QRE is also working with Coventry City Council to develop the City Centre South scheme which will provide over 560,000sq ft of retail and leisure space, including a new department store, multiplex cinema, seven large fashion units, 30 retail units, nine family restaurants and over 1,000 parking spaces. Pre-development activities are well underway for City Centre South. Planning will be submitted in early 2015 with start on site forecast for 2016 and completion approximately two years later (autumn 2018).
What are your key development management and asset management instructions?
In addition to developing schemes, Queensberry Real Estate acts an in independent development and project manager for major institutions such as Aviva Investors and Merseyside Pension Fund. The team is currently working with these clients to transform the Corn Exchange in Manchester and Tunsgate Square in Guildford.
QRE is also an experienced asset manager, working for clients including The Crown Estate, Revcap and Bywater Properties. The team is growing rapidly with expertise in tenant liaison, leasing, property management, branding and scheme repositioning. Instructions include CrownGate, Worcester and Kingsway, Newport.
What does the future hold?
From the beginning of 2015 QRE will become even more dynamic as an organization. We have formed Queensberry Strategic Property Management to focus on the set-up of property management budgets and systems during development and refurbishment. This will be an advisory consultancy led by a leading market figure. It will advise QRE schemes and third party assets equally. We are also in the initial stages of preparing to launch a property fund focused on secondary retail assets located in the Regions. This will give the Queensberry group of companies a unique involvement in every aspect of the retail property sector. We’re looking to break all the rules!