Montagu Evans

Retail and residential plan for vacant building on Aberdeen’s Union Street

New plans have been submitted to transform a vacant building in Aberdeen city centre into shops, a cafe and a residential development.

Developer Rockspring, which owns several linked properties on Union Street including the former BHS store and the attached indoor market, has submitted two new applications to re-configure buildings at 101-103 Union Street.

The plans will also include the change of use at the lower levels to create the new cafe space, accessed from The Green.

A spokeswoman for Rockspring said that the company’s vision for the site would assist with the Aberdeen City Council’s masterplan to revive the city centre.

She said: “Union Street has suffered in recent times due to structural changes in the retail environment.

“Our planning application seeks to plug the holes left by failing retailers and department stores, making the area more attractive and fit for purpose so that, together, we can bring more people to live and work in the city.

“We are working closely with Aberdeen City Council to put forward solutions that, not only enhance the buildings we own, but transform them into more relevant and attractive sites with street-level facades that will regenerate that part of Union Street.

“This scheme also adds much-needed living opportunities to a city centre which has been largely neglected by residential developers.”

A design statement, prepared by Montagu Evans on behalf of Rockspring Hanover Property Unit Trust, said shopfront alterations, reconfiguration of internal floorspace and a change of use of the upper floors to form residential space are among the proposals.

It added: “The refurbishment and alterations proposed are intended to refresh the premises and create a new opportunity and new future for the property.”

The unoccupied floor areas on levels four, in part, plus all of five and six, are proposed to be changed into residential use.

The proposals form part of wider plans previously lodged by Rockspring to redesign the disused department store and the adjoining market. A design statement with the plans said the redevelopment of the market would see an “under-utilised, unloved building” revitalised into a “vibrant retail space”.

The firm intends to add new shopfronts to The Green and to build a frameless glass wall around the old BHS site to showcase its interior and lure in more passers-by.

On Market Street, the indoor market would be set back from the street to remove its “oppressive, overhanging facade” and provide extra seating and public space outside.

Rockspring also plans a two-storey glass wall to sit underneath a large, “welcoming” curved corner which will help steer visitors along the side of the building.

New industrial partner hire for Montagu Evans

Bryce Stewart

Planning and development consultancy Montagu Evans has appointed Bryce Stewart as a partner based at the firm’s Edinburgh office.

A specialist in the industrial sector, with clients including Eddie Stobart, Aberdeen Standard Investments, Roxhill, Eurogarages Shepherd Offshore and J Smart & Co, Bryce was previously a director at Colliers International.

He has advised NEC, Atmel and Freescale in the disposal of their 3 million sq ft facilities during the downturn of the Scottish semi-conductor sector and Asda on its 410,000 sq ft disposal in Grangemouth, as well as Logicors’ 630,000 sq ft disposal at J4M8. He has also delivered lettings and sales to Amazon and Schuh.

Commenting on the appointment, Andrew Munnis, head of Scotland at Montagu Evans, said: “Bryce is a first-rate industrial property specialist with particular experience advising corporate occupiers in the Central Belt, as well as across Scotland and the North of England. He will bring a great deal of additional value to our clients as part of the UK-wide industrial and trade counter team and is a very welcome addition to the firm.”

Operational delivery ‘key to return on investment’ for Build to Rent in Scotland

A build to rent project is underway at Edinburgh's Fountainbridge

A build to rent project is underway at Edinburgh’s Fountainbridge

Investors into Scotland’s Build to Rent (BTR) sector have been urged to ensure that schemes have operational management factored in from the earliest stages of development.

A new report from residential property management company FirstPort is based on a roundtable meeting involving some of Scotland’s major players in industry and representatives of government.

With significant government backing, the hope is that BTR will attract £500 million of investment and deliver 2,500 private rental homes by 2020 to help address the housing shortage in Scotland.

But, according to Build to Rent in Scotland: Getting it right, across the UK the BTR sector has so far faced challenges establishing itself as a significant element of the housing market.

FirstPort business development manager, Jeremy Ogborne, said: “Build to Rent in Scotland: Getting it right addresses some of the barriers that have slowed investment and delivery in the BTR sector.  The report argues that securing the confidence of investors, of government, and of customers, is key, and that ensuring how the building will operate and serve its local market should be planned in from the beginning.

“The key message is that, in the end, the quality of operational delivery will define a development and the customer experience. In the everyday life of a development it is going to make the difference between efficient and high-quality amenities versus amenities which are disused or deteriorating; the difference between a vibrant community in which residents feel they belong, versus one with dissatisfied, disengaged customers.

“Operational delivery is absolutely key to providing a healthy return on investment for the long-term, reducing customer churn, and maintaining a premium look and feel.

“If a development treats this as an afterthought then it is going to struggle to remain viable, as some BTR developments currently are. There are very few managing agents in the market with the scale necessary to perform this role.

“Now the Scottish Government is calling on the sector to deliver, and with operational expertise, management information and an experienced, skilled workforce all factored in from day one, it can do so.”

Build to Rent in Scotland: Getting it right includes input from Homes for Scotland, Pinsent Masons LLP, the Scottish Futures Trust, the Scottish Property Federation, Montagu Evans, the EDI Group and representatives of the Scottish Government.