Argent aims to attract Chinese occupiers to the £800m Manchester Airport City development, its managing partner has told Construction News.
David Partridge said Airport City Manchester’s forthcoming trip to China (see box) would target Chinese manufacturers and businesses considering moving some of their operations to the UK.
“We want to talk to those who might want to move their businesses over here, to export technology or link up with local businesses here,” Mr Partridge said. “We have an opportunity to connect Chinese businesses here in the UK.”
Asked about the level of interest he expected from Chinese firms, Mr Partridge said Manchester Airport City was a “fairly unique proposition”.
“It would be nice to think we could come back with a full order book, but I think we’ll make contacts,” he said. “We’ll follow up those contacts and then turn them into real investment.”
“Our intention is to encourage opportunities into Airport City first, and then we’ll have the rather nice problem of how to build them”
David Partridge, Argent
Airport City Manchester was granted planning permission for 5m sq ft of new offices, industrial units, hotels, retail and leisure facilities last January, with a development value of around £800m.
Mr Partridge said Argent wanted to “gauge what sorts of people are going to be interested” to steer the project and potential future speculative developments.
Airport City Manchester, which has Beijing Construction Engineering Group as an equity partner, today announced plans for an international roadshow across three key cities in mainland China in June this year, following the visit of BCEG’s managing director to Manchester Airport to endorse the signing of the joint venture partnership.
The partners will visit Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen from 9 to 13 June 2014. At each city there will be events to promote the scheme to occupier investors, manufacturers and property agents.
“Our activity is around attracting the occupiers,” he said. “Our intention is to encourage opportunities into Airport City first, and then we’ll have the rather nice problem of how to build them.”
Argent was appointed as development manager on the Airport City Manchester development last October in a consortium with Beijing Construction Engineering Group, Carillion and Greater Manchester Pension Fund, which is working with Manchester Airports Group.
Mr Partridge added that there was no plan to talk to Chinese building subcontractors, with Carillion and BCEG already having strong supply chains in place.
“It’s not just about a wall of money, but creating jobs here, importing and exporting, and opening the doors to UK businesses going back into China”
David Partridge, Argent
Argent has had a long-term interest in Manchester, where it has developed city centre office schemes including One St Peter’s Square and One Piccadilly Gardens.
It is also development manager for the £450m transformation of Birmingham’s Paradise Circus, with a mixture of offices, retail and leisure facilities planned across 10 new buildings in the city centre.
Mr Partridge said Argent had been “large supporters of Birmingham and Manchester throughout the recession”.
He said a “shift in perception” about the regions over the past year was leading to increasing competition for sites, but that Argent was “ahead of the game”.
“[Birmingham and Manchester] have always been attractive – they are better value and not trophy assets like in London,” he said.
“We always wanted to keep our eggs in as many baskets as possible. Now we’re ahead of the game a little.”
Mr Partidge said he expected foreign investment in UK developments to continue, but that the focus must be on more than asking people to spend their money in the UK.
“It’s not just about a wall of money, but creating jobs here, importing and exporting, and opening the doors to UK businesses going back into China,” he said.