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Chris Thompson: 'Architects have the largest ability to add value'

Chris Thompson of Yorkshire-based developer Citu on the death of the ‘build it and leg it’ developer and why architects should make more of their problem-solving skills

What are you currently working on and what does the future hold?
A zero carbon community at Kelham Island in Sheffield designed by Sturgeon North Architects. It’s a perfect place for our next development with a great mix of existing local community, heritage buildings, local pubs and cultural amenities. We submitted planning back in May. The council were great – a real pleasure to work with – something you don’t hear too often from developers when referring to local authorities. We secured consent in August so it’s all systems go.

How have the last 12 months been for you?
Good. Our last scheme; Greenhouse designed by Sturgeon North Architects and delivered by West & Machell in Leeds, has found its feet and we ‘ve been busy getting the building occupied with the right people. The Sheffield scheme is exciting and has kept us really busy. We’ve also completed Munro house,  a multi-use, creative arts space designed by Sturgeon North Architects,  in Leeds city centre.

How is the developer landscape changing?
Finance is the obvious key change; and how you can find innovative ways to fund projects.  Aside from that, developers need to be more involved in the development itself for the medium term to ensure the building or place is successful. It can no longer be a case of build it and leg it as some developers used to do.

Are you looking for architects and how do you chose them?
We‘ve a long term relationship with a few key architects but we are always interested to hear from those with enthusiasm and creativity. We try to continue and build long term relationships so that we all benefit from knowledge and lessons learned as we go.

What is the commonest mistake architects make?
All consultants can be guilty of overlooking the key objective of adding value. Architects have the largest ability to add value through creative problem solving which can reduce costs, increase value or mainly just create better places. Sometimes architects don’t make enough of this skill which can be critical to the success of a scheme.

Are you still intending to press on with The Calls project? [an AJ-backed contest which was won by Fletcher Crane – AJ 26.07.2010)?
In due course, that’s the plan - pending finding the right tenant for the building. The market is still some way off building speculatively.

Fletcher Crane's victorious 36 The Calls contest scheme for Citu

Fletcher Crane’s victorious 36 The Calls contest scheme for Citu

What do you think would kick start major development?
Finance and confidence.

What is the best advice you have been given?
Don’t worry about things you can’t do anything about.

What is your favourite building?

A difficult question. I’m going to dodge it by telling you that my favourite buildings in Leeds are Cuthbert Brodrick’s Corn Exchange and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ Broadcasting House.

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