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From Doxford Park to Harry Potter!

Trevor Silver, Managing Director of Landid Property Holdings, is a great believer in using a tried and tested team of advisers on projects. Barney Frith, head of property at Square One Law, has built a long term relationship with Trevor stretching back over 24 years and has worked with him on a wide range of successful projects around the country.

Trevor Silver has a 25 year track record in the property and construction business. He is a chartered civil engineer and in 1989 he co-founded the property company Akeler Developments in Leeds. The business grew rapidly through the early nineties, becoming one of the most successful young commercial companies in the UK with a particular expertise in office parks and sustainability.

In 1993, Akeler formed a unique partnership with Sunderland City Council and developed Doxford International Business Park, a 50 hectare site located on the outskirts of Sunderland.

Trevor explains: “Doxford was a very important development for Akeler. Sunderland had lost many of its traditional industries and the Business Park was to be built in an Enterprise Zone, which was a tax efficient device that would attract investors into speculative developments. At that stage, Akeler hadn’t developed a Business Park, but we did understand enterprise zones. We beat fierce competition and Doxford became a huge success attracting companies such as, Royal Insurance, Nike, T-Mobile and The Post Office and employed 5,000 people.

“Akeler went on to develop 13-14 million sq ft of space in a variety of industrial parks and Barney was our legal adviser for the majority of that work.

“In 1998 the business was sold to Security Capital European Realty and went on to become the largest Business Park developer in Europe and in 2006 the business was sold again to the Goodman Group for £650 million.”

Trevor then went on to co-found property company Landid with Stephen Morgan in 2005, focusing on sustainable built environments across the whole property sector including office, retail, industrial and residential developments. A UK-focused developer with a strong track record in London and the Thames Valley, the business got off to a great start with The Ark development in Hammersmith in 2008: the major refurbishment of a 170,000 sq ft building suitable for single or multi-occupancy use. Originally designed by signature architect Ralph Erskine, The Ark is one of London’s iconic buildings. Open TV currently occupies 7,091 sq ft and the building was leased to GE at the end of 2010.

The Landid story has been an incredibly successful one, with 14 major projects delivered over the company’s relatively short lifetime. Trevor says: “We got off to a flying start but the downturn in 2008 caused great concern for all property developers. We were extremely fortunate that in 2009 Landid was appointed as development manager for the £120m development of the Warner Bros. Leavesden Site. The project included the refurbishment of existing stages, new stages, workshops and mills, management offices, production offices, restaurants and dressing rooms. All supported by a new IT infrastructure and 20MW power supply.

“The 170 acre site is where Warner Bros. has produced all the Harry Potter films and other more recent blockbusters, including The Dark Knight, the new Sherlock Holmes films and Inception. Overall it has attracted some £1.9 billion in production budgets – almost 40 per cent of the UK’s inward film investment during the last decade.

Trevor explains: “We were hugely enthusiastic about the project. The movie business is very distinctive and it was great to work with such talented people who naturally have a ’can-do attitude‘and can make decisions very quickly. We managed the whole project, which could be very demanding at times as we were managing hundreds of different tradesmen and a massive new IT infrastructure which was a large part of the refurbishment.

“Many people do not realise that the Warner Bros. studios at Leavesden is the largest film studio outside of Burbank, California. The Harry Potter film series made Leavesden its home for more than ten years. As the books were still being released while the films were being made, the production crew saved many of the iconic sets, props and costumes that were created especially for the films – just in case they were ever needed later on in the series.

“Once filming wrapped on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 in 2010, the production crew were left with a treasure trove of thousands of intricate and beautifully-made artefacts, many of which wouldn’t have been saved on a typical production. The challenge for the Landid architects was to design a suitable space to preserve and showcase these iconic props, costumes and sets so that Harry Potter fans could experience the magic of filmmaking first-hand. The resultant Harry Potter Studio Tour offers visitors the unique opportunity to explore two soundstages and a backlot filled with original sets, animatronic creatures and breathtaking special effects.

“It was a great project for us to work on and Warner Bros. were delighted that we completed the project on time and within budget.”

Looking to the future, Landid now has a total team of 15 consisting of 4 other directors, architects and planning specialists. Recently Paul Bacon, who was Senior Partner and CEO of Cushman & Wakefield EMEA, has joined as their part-time non-executive Chairman. Paul Bacon has been operating in the real estate market for 30 years, both as an adviser and investor.

With this highly experienced team, Landid is concentrating on three main areas: refurbishment of offices; industrial sites and the private rented sector.

Trevor continues: ”We are currently developing a modern, contempory product in all key locations in London and the Thames Valley. We have concentrated on sites that will have access to Crossrail, and are very aware that today’s workforce is much more diverse and uses a range of ways to travel to work. For instance, only 60 per cent of people now own a driving licence and rely far more on public transport. Good communication links are vital and there is a much higher percentage of people cycling to work, so you need facilities to store bikes and good shower and changing facilities. These are high on the list for refurbishment projects, along with restaurants and crèches and improving energy efficiency in buildings. Interestingly, none of these things featured in the office designs of 20 years ago.

“The second area we are concentrating on is industrial. Often they are simple warehouse buildings, but it’s the distribution links that are key. As internet shopping continues to rise year on year, more warehouse space is required and they need to boast excellent transport links, whether road or rail.

“Barney helped us recently on the purchase of the Goresbrook Park site in Dagenham. Landid purchased the site in November 2013 in conjunction with Sheikh Holdings and Longbow ICG. The site, comprising approximately 500,000 sq ft, was then leased to Eddie Stobart Limited for a term of 17 years with occupation taken in August 2014. We are excited to be working with such a blue chip tenant, and are currently exploring opportunities with Eddie Stobart to progress the use of rail freight on site.”

Barney continues: “This was a complex transaction that involved the structuring of an elaborate joint venture to initially acquire the site followed by the negotiation and completion of an agreement for lease and lease with Eddie Stobart. We are delighted to have helped Landid with the acquisition and subsequent letting of this site and to have continued our relationship with Trevor and the team.”

The third area of focus for Landid is the private rented sector.

Trevor explains: “I know someone who lives in rented accommodation in New York. Her flat has a great concierge service and that makes her working life so much easier. They deal with deliveries, workmen appointments, dry cleaning etc. All the things when you have a busy working day can be a nightmare to find the time to do.

“As house prices rise, we are already seeing in London and other major cities an increasing number of people who will be unable to buy their own homes. There is a real opportunity to design buildings for the rental market that are cool spaces with clever design and use of colour and materials.

“People’s needs are changing. They are working longer hours and want their home life to be easy. Renting a flat in a building that has a good concierge service, a clubroom with bar and restaurant, so creating a place to meet others and relax after work, would be appealing. It’s about creating a sense of community. London is an obvious place to have this type of offering, but if we get the brand right we envisage being able to have a network of similar properties across the country.”

Trevor has a philosophy of partnering with selected architects, engineers and contractors. He has developed projects in close collaboration with government agencies, local authorities and private landowners across the UK and Europe and has had public partnerships with Sunderland City Council, Manchester Council, The Welsh Development Agency and Scottish Enterprise. He has also worked with a number of partners in the private sector including GE Capital, RREEF, Delancey, Starwood, Helaba Bank and Brockton Capital.

Trevor concludes:” I believe in taking the time to find the right people to work with you. They come together as a team and are completely enthusiastic about each project, meaning you ultimately get more from the working relationship.
“Barney and I have worked together for over 24 years, first with Akeler and now Landid. I find him totally reliable and I trust his judgement. He is scrupulously honest, straight forward to deal with and most importantly, he’s extremely good at what he does.

“When I first met him he was working in Leeds and I have followed him when he has moved to different law firms. When Barney introduced me to the partners at Square One Law what impressed me most is that they come across as an enthusiastic and like-minded team.”

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