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Crown Estate: ‘We want to find new talent’

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The Crown Estate is on the hunt for emerging practices to work on its £5 billion property empire, according to the head of its central London portfolio

Speaking at an AJ120 breakfast last week (4 September) James Cooksey told architects ‘not to hold back’ and that the developer’s ‘door was always open’ to new talent.

The drive is part of its aim to create ‘modern, striking and flexible’ architecture across the capital.

The developer is currently working on schemes with Dixon Jones, and AJ120 practices Make, Eric Parry Architects and Allford Hall Monaghan Morris.

Cooksey said the key things he looks for in a practice are its track record, experience, understanding of the Crown Estate’s vision, and the team’s capacity to deliver the project from concept to completion.

He added that the developer’s preferred method for appointing architects was through a competitive process.

‘We understand that this is not pain-free but we finish off with a better informed project team’, he said.

The Crown Estate works in four key areas – London’s West End equates to almost half of its total assets, alongside regional retail, 340,000 acres of rural holdings, and off-shore energy.

Since 2005, the company’s value has doubled with it investing £350 million into its St James’s portfolio in the last five years.

The developer, which is restricted from borrowing due to its association with the state, is currently using strategic joint ventures to provide capital for its projects. According to Cooksey, this  ‘fundamental change in how the Crown Estate works’ is key to enabling its West End pipeline.

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