Invest North: Manchester is the capital of the North

There is still a future for the office. That’s according to property tycoon George Downing.

The Liverpool based developer said he anticipates more people returning to the office than expected as the country moves to a ‘post-Covid normality.’

Speaking at Invest North 2022, Downing said: “Whether it stays that way long-term is yet to be seen, but technology will play a strong role in that.

“But when you have got a young workforce, and unless that technology is just brilliant, young people still need to learn and the best way to learn is by being with other people so that they can be trained but to also get creative and look at fresh ideas.

“I’m still learning, and the best environment for me is with other people.”

Looking at some of the biggest changes in the property sector over the past two years, Downing said the focus on ESG and how the sector can make more environment friendly building has been the biggest and one of the most important shifts.

He also said there was a big focus on placemaking since lockdown.

“If you’re living in an apartment scheme in the city centre, then people want outside areas more than ever before since being in lockdown, and they want amenity and community space so that if people want they can work and live in the same environment.”

Asked about the developments and changes in Manchester’s skyline over the past two decades, Downing said the council, led by former leader Sir Richard Leese and former CEO Sir Howard Bernstein, provided developers the opportunity to create “exciting schemes” that left a legacy in the city.

“When we first started working in Manchester and went to share our plans with the executive team, we were told straightaway if they didn’t like it, that it wasn’t good enough or it wasn’t creating enough jobs etcetera.

“So, you had to think and re-present the plan and if they liked what you did, they were very supportive. And it was easy to work there. We built a few schemes in Manchester successfully and have added to the mix of schemes across the city.”

He added: “It wasn’t a hard choice to want to work in Manchester because it’s a fantastic city and I’d say the city is the capital of the North.

“The city leaders have done such a good job in Manchester that it has helped to set the benchmark for other cities.”