Our opportunity lies in between
When working in property, there’s often a period through which landlords, estates companies or acquisition firms let land lay dormant. This is often perceived as time spent developing its future use, but more often than not it’s because there are more important priorities, insecure funding or the owner only requires part of the plot. While this is simply business to some, to us it’s an opportunity missed.
For this reason we’ve developed an in-house proposal to present to prospective land owners with the intention of securing a temporary use of undeveloped vacant land in strategic areas, starting at Swansea SA1.
Across the country the daily average pop-up rent is just 10p per square foot, in City Centres it’s £1. Units can give startup and micro-businesses their first opportunity to trade in prime shopping and leisure precincts. But we don’t think that’s going far enough. While these opportunities provide a short-term marketing gain, they don’t provide the stability required to succeed as a business in retail or hospitality. On the opposite end of the spectrum, existing fixed retail and food park management firms often require long-term lease agreements that startups and micro-businesses can’t commit to. It’s an old-fashioned system, in our eyes soon to be rendered obsolete following the 2020 recession.
In England, a new style of shopping mall is emerging. Enter the new age of pop-up malls, retail outlets and venues – Boxpark, Pop Brixton and Stack are just some of the brands disrupting the status quo and building a strong customer base. The most popular construction method is the recycling of one-use shipping containers – a strong and sturdy construction which can form modules and stacks, they can be easily dismantled and re-purposed. Normally permitted on future development land for 5 years, more successful parks like Boxpark Shoreditch, which has been trading since 2011, have had their leases extended.
We have no doubt that a similar scheme in Swansea would draw a healthy footfall given the right location, so we’re currently engaging with Swansea Council, Welsh Government and the City’s Universities with the view to acquiring a temporary lease on a suitable plot. While this sounds simple in principle, it’s no easy task. We’re sure you’ll agree with us that vacant land with no proposal for development should be made available on a temporary basis. However there are various processes which we need to get through first, like planning policy which designates classifications for development land use and talking with land owners to agree on exactly what would be a suitable temporary use of their space.
Since our initial concept was created developments have been made in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which have both direct and indirect influences on the development of our proposals. Press Releases like Lee Waters MS’s “A golden opportunity for change” has provided us with food for thought about the way we’ll continue to travel throughout and post-COVID-19. It’s certainly opened some creative pathways to the original sustainable retail, food and leisure park we first envisaged.
We’ve made considerable progress since publishing our first of many Logs regarding this in-house development, that being through initial contact with Council and Private Estates teams to identify suitable areas where we may look to design our initial concepts, many video calls to estates managers, company owners and multi-sector funding organisations who will be pivotal in the success of what we have planned.
We have so many amazing ideas for the park which we’re certain will meet with the needs of local businesses, the economy and its customers. But nothing good comes without first undertaking essential thorough research and setting the foundations, including the all-important siting and funding provisions.
What we can reveal is that we’re in talks with multiple site owners who are very interested in our concept and are working with us to develop ideas and research into feasible development plans. Our aim is to assist those who we’ve contacted in relation to suitable sites to understand the opportunities associated with what is a temporary yet sustainable development, created from recycled materials.
Media update: we’ve been featured in Wales Online. With a surge of interest, we are developing a webspace specifically for what, as a working title, will be called FR8PK.
On Thursday (30th July 2020) we met with teams from Sustrans, a walking and cycle charity who operate parts of Wales National Cycle Network, and Welsh Government to discuss our concept for FR8PK, the working title of the scheme. While general, the feedback was massively positive and linked well with both prospective projects being considered by teams within Welsh Government and proposed funds set out to encourage green living and healthy behaviours post-COVID19. We have submitted a statement outlining a proposal to proceed with FR8PK which is, in the first instance, to be considered by Welsh Ministers.
During the first two weeks of August we conducted site visits in and around Swansea’s SA1 in order to strategically define part of the overall scheme. We visited six sites of which two were qualified as suitable under our initial working criteria. A prospectus, media and expressions of interest were published at a new website created specifically for FR8PK, the working title of the scheme. This allows potential traders, investors and land owners to complete a registration form to be considered for our first scheme in Swansea.
This article will be updated as the scheme progresses. Keep checking or look for updates on our social media accounts.