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Richard Lewis: ‘Deep pockets and patience’

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Richard Lewis of Town Centre Securities on tax breaks for new schemes and why he needs architects who understand the occupier

What kind of schemes are you working on?
Our main project is the 15,800m² office overhaul for Leeds City Council. We also have a further 20,000m² office scheme in Leeds on the Whitehall Waterfront site by Leeds Central Station, which is linked to a nearby multistorey car park; a Waitrose scheme near Glasgow and a refurbishment project for an operational 1,000-space multistorey car park, which includes structural repairs.

What is your experience that the regions are slowly starting to move forward and that the long-awaited trickledown effect from London is gathering pace?
It has more to do with lease expiries and general confidence. But, on the funding side, there has definitely been a trickledown.

How has the developer landscape changed during the recession?
More equity is required on the financing side – so you need deep pockets and patience.

What is the big change in office design over the past decade?
The ever-growing size of floorplates, which in a city centre leads to hefty building sizes and a bigger financial commitment.

How do you chose an architect?
It’s horses for courses, but knowledge of the city and various planning foibles helps, as well as an appreciation of where design is going, especially from an occupier perspective. What turns us off is when the briefing is hard work.

Are you searching for new architects, and how do you find them?
We are always on the lookout. We usually find architects by word of mouth, or through publicity and journals. We often work with ‘breakaways’ from larger practices.

What do you think of the government’s attempts to drive development?
I only see specific attempts in the residential sector. Elsewhere, general confidence in the economy is helping.

What could the government do to help you?
Give a five-year holiday from empty rates from completion of newly built schemes.

Which is your favourite Town Centre Securities scheme?
Right now, the new offices designed by BDP’s Manchester office for Leeds City Council. We are taking a 1970s office building and turning it into something suitable for the next 25 years.

Which other projects do you admire?
Renzo Piano’s Shard. Not only for its style, but for delivering the complexities of a mixed-use scheme on such a tight site with the restrictions of Network Rail and Transport for London.

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