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Will Lewis – director of OBI Property – on how cities sell themselves

I’ve just returned from MIPIM (Marche international des professionnels de l’Immobilier), an international property conference you might have heard about – outside of the business and property press, it receives some undue criticism in the media, possibly because of its location in Cannes – but seeing as that’s where the organiser Reed MIDEM holds it, and it’s very popular, what can you do? It’s the largest property event in the world, and from our point of view MIPIM is an event we have to be at; it’s an event any regional UK city serious about winning investment will be at.

This year, there were 4,500 investors registered among 22,000 delegates, all of them people who are investing in property and infrastructure projects across the world. The UK is enjoying a purple patch at the moment when it comes to securing investment, and that looks like continuing. Even during the week, there was big news from the UK regions, with Legal & General buying 50% of the Mediacity complex from Peel.

MIPIM’s a ‘work hard play hard’ event, it’s true, but the meetings start early and you pack a lot in – it’s a chance to get in front of a range of people that would take you months to see otherwise, and they’re all in one place – or within a few hundred yards of one place, anyway, the centre of things being the Palais des Festivals, which is the big ugly building you see on footage of the Cannes Film Festival.

In between meetings, we got to see what quite a few of the UK cities have to offer at present, and there’s a lot going on. Manchester is where OBI does most of its work and the city always pulls big crowds at MIPIM, none more than for its last event of the 2015 week, a presentation from Gary Neville. Rather than talk football, Gary focused on the projects his company is bringing forward in Manchester, most notably the Jacksons Row project at the old Bootle Street police station site. Like his development of the former Stock Restaurant, this looks a winner.

There was a healthy contingent from Liverpool as well, with announcements including Peel submitting the first detailed planning application – for a 100,000 sq ft office building – at the massive Liverpool Waters project. It was also confirmed that Moda Living will soon submit an application for a residential tower, and that three of the other 88 – yes, eighty eight – plots will be used for a hotel.

What stood out was the mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, joining with Manchester’s council boss Sir Howard Bernstein at various events, each urging for more action and more decision-making ability on major issues such as transport. This also involved leaders from Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle and Sheffield, and it seems that not only is there a lot of genuine collaboration around, but there’s a real head of steam developing when it comes to the regional cities who’ve not yet reached agreement on their devolution deals to do so.

Both Leeds and Birmingham had impressive stands and just from walking the exhibition halls it was clear that there was more confidence among the Brits. The economic downturn gave people cause to think and, if events like MIPIM ever were just a party, they’re now being used to showcase how a city likes to do business. I can’t see why anyone would want to miss out.

www.obiproperty.co.uk

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