This Q&A was originally published in Simply Abu Dhabi magazine.
Home to the world’s first computer, internationally-renowned football clubs, and the largest student population in Europe, Manchester is quickly cementing its position as the capital of the North of England.
Whilst Manchester’s international reputation has attracted world class businesses such as Amazon and Spotify, it’s also attracted serious international investment. HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the Abu Dhabi ruling family has spent more than £1.3bn directly investing into Manchester City Football Club, a further £400m of funding has also been invested by HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan into Manchester Life.
Manchester is home to a thriving social scene, prosperous job market and an ever-evolving city centre. Central Manchester has seen a wealth of commercial investment in recent years with regeneration projects such as NOMA, Spinningfields and Ancoats. The creation of these thriving city centre neighbourhoods has created an influx of highly educated young people wanting to work, live and socialise in the city centre.
This year’s Economic Intelligence Unit’s Annual Global Liveability Report Index listed Manchester as the most liveable city in the UK. Not only is Manchester the most liveable city, it’s also got the fastest growing economy in the UK, according to the 2019 annual State of the City Report. Manchester is flourishing and there’s never been a better time than now to invest in a city that’s on the up.
Beech Holdings, owned by one of Manchester’s biggest developers Stephen Beech, has been involved with the regeneration of Manchester city centre for the last 20 years. Beech Holdings’ forte is creating premium developments and neighbourhoods for international and national professionals and students.
With Beech Holdings about to embark on a number of key developments in Manchester city centre, Simply Abu Dhabi caught up with Stephen Beech to talk about the growth of Manchester and what the future holds for Beech Holdings.
Q What’s so great about Manchester?
A Manchester is an incredible place and its history shouts innovation, hard work and resilience. From introducing the industrial revolution to the world in the 19th century all the way to producing some of the planet’s most prolific brains, sportsmen and artists, this city and its people keep on surprising me.
Manchester has shifted from being a heavily industrialised city to an internationally renowned destination for travel, business and pleasure. The term Manc-hattan is mentioned quite a lot and when you see the architecture and what Manchester has to offer in terms of luxury, it’s not that far off the mark. Manchester is also home to the second largest financial district in the UK, shifting business owners away from a London-centric mentality when it comes to international business.
I am fortunate enough to have been born and bred in Manchester and seen its extraordinary evolution, especially over the last 10 years, with more and more wealth and opportunities for growth, developing over time. Trust me, it doesn’t look like it might slow down anytime soon!
Q How has Manchester changed in the last 20 years?
A One of the biggest positive changes Manchester has benefitted from over the past 20 years, certainly has to do with residential and office space developing all over the place! From the 1990s, Manchester developed a great appetite for creating wealth, by using private developers who transformed square footage into capital appreciation. The transformation of office space in the city began around 1997, with the Spinningfields development subsequently providing grade A office space for the central business district. Not only has Spinningfields attracted world-renowned business such as PWc and KPMG, it’s also Manchester’s destination for luxury shopping and dining, with luxury brands Giorgio Armani, Mulberry and The Ivy being located in the area.
The way development has been working through the years has also hugely contributed to retaining labour, as opposed to seeing workers move to London after graduation. 57% of students who moved away from Manchester for university come back after graduation, and a further 51% of graduates stay in Manchester after graduation. With more highly educated people choosing to work, live and study in Manchester, it creates more wealth and more opportunities for all, making Manchester one of the most attractive places to live in the UK.
Q Why should investors be looking at Manchester and not London?
Despite Manchester not being previously considered the initial choice for investors in the buy to let market, with many preferring London due to its high growth potential and high yields, things have recently changed:
London now doesn’t seem to offer as many great investment opportunities as it used to.
London has always experienced more demand than supply with regards to property, making any investor keen to build property and make profit. However, the demand is gradually diminishing with more and more people opting to live out of the city and commute, in search of a better quality of life. This has left the capital open to poor growth, reducing yields, and therefore not the best place for people to invest their money wisely.
Manchester has quickly become a place for workers to stay or move to, with a great quality of life on offer than in London. Manchester has a thriving job market and offers workers the possibility to commute and travel all over the world. Manchester Airport is one of the biggest airports in the United Kingdom, flying passengers to more international destinations a day than any other UK airport outside of London.
With high yields, plenty of rental demand, serious opportunities for huge capital appreciation, and more and more world leading businesses joining the party, the city is becoming even more attractive to investors, making it a way superior opportunity to London.
Q What’s your experience in Manchester and property development?
A I am Manchester born and bred, I love it here and I can’t think of a better place to live and do business. Manchester is the heart of the north. I’ve always been passionate about business, when I was 7, I used to sell Vimto lollies on the playground to try and make a bit of extra pocket money. 30 years later, when I was showing my friend from Saudi Arabia the Vimto statue in Manchester, he informed me he drinks Vimto to break his fast – so it’s nice to see that not only does Manchester have an internationally recognised reputation, Vimto does too.
At 13 I started running my own carwash. Then things got slightly more sophisticated when I got to 24, I bought my first investment property, completely renovated it and then rented it out to 4 students. By 2013, I’d created my own property business with over 100 properties in the portfolio.
Since 2013, my passion has been creating large, luxury apartment blocks in up and coming areas of Manchester. Creating developments in these areas, opens up opportunities for global investment, so that not only does the Manchester economy benefit from the infrastructure, but this capital appreciation is shared with my co-investors and partners.
My aim has always been to create affordable, but also premium, apartments for the increasing demand of educated young people living in the city.
Q What projects have you worked on?
We have been working on a wide range of projects, from off-plans to freeholds, catering for different types of tenants.
The first project we successfully delivered in Manchester city centre was located on 90 Princess Street. This product, due to its excellent quality of build, is still operating well and looks as new today as it did back then. We then invited a handful of investors to co-invest with us, and the popularity of 90 Princess Street with tenants, turned these investors into partners, who came back to invest with us time and time again.
This quickly opened the door to the renovation and delivery of high-end projects, such as Basil House, situated on the renowned Portland Street, which is one of our most luxurious offerings to date. The project entailed the conversion of a tired grade II listed building into premium apartments.
After competition, Aims Holdings, one of the biggest investment funds in Saudi Arabia, purchased the building in a £39 million pound deal. Our partnership with Aims Holdings, who now manage Basil House, enables us to continue delivering Manchester the high-end luxury residential space it needed.
Another project we are proud of is the completion of 317 apartments at our Westpoint development, one of our biggest regeneration projects to date. All 317 apartments were rented off-plan before completion, highlighting Manchester’s demand for high-spec residential space and a testament to the trust people have in both Beech Holdings and our lettings agency Manchester Apartments, mapartments.co.uk. We did not anticipate how popular these apartments would become despite building these fully with our tenants in mind!
Q: What areas of Manchester do you see as the best for investments?
The property industry has become very competitive in Manchester, due to the hundreds of millions of pounds it generates. This means that the game has moved on to either fight for a saturated spot in the city or think smart and be ahead of the curve.
We quickly realised a couple of years ago that two main areas in Manchester started to stand out with regards to property. These areas were Trafford and Ancoats. We were certainly right, as Trafford is where we built all 317 units at Westpoint, which are now fully let, thanks to the continuous growth and expansion of the area. The regeneration of Trafford attracted amazing projects such as the University Academy 92, founded by Manchester United superstars Gary Neville, and Ryan Giggs who are now partnering with us to deliver quality accommodation to their students. In addition to ourselves, Microsoft, KPMG and Lancashire County Cricket Club are also partnered with UA92.
Ancoats is another area which is still expanding, and we managed to identify and utilise ahead of competition. This area of Manchester, which was slightly gritty 5 years ago, has turned into a huge tech hub, attracting media and tech professionals, working for big world leading companies such as Amazon, Spotify and Booking.com
This attraction to Ancoats does make sense. Recently named one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world, attracting hipsters and artists alike, Ancoats is quickly becoming an extension of the city centre.
With more apartments being built in the area through our Ancoats Gardens development, we are also hoping to use what we have learned to continue the regeneration of other neighbourhoods in Manchester.
Our ethos is to cater to a wide variety of tenants and our constant eagerness to grow, create and develop a premium service level means we can adapt to all kinds of different tenants.
We are also big on catering to different cultures and when once upon a time Chinese students made up the majority of our international tenants, we are now seeing a big influx of tenants from the Gulf a 76% increase year on year. Our international tenants contribute towards a strong multicultural work force in Manchester and we are proud to welcome more and more investments from the Middle East investors who want to co-invest with us and join us on our very exciting journey.
Q: What projects do you have planned for the future that you are able to share with us?
A One of the most exciting projects we’re working on at the moment is Ancoats Gardens. Mana, a restaurant in Ancoats, recently won Manchester its first Michelin star in 40 years. Mana’s owner Simon Martin previously worked at Noma in Copenhagen, voted the world’s number one restaurant four years running, so it’s certainly put Ancoats on the international food enthusiasts map.
Our Ancoats Gardens development houses 155 5-star premium apartments, three roof gardens, a gym and shared social spaces. Our shared social spaces are inclusive of a resident’s lounge, alongside co-working and co-dining areas. Ancoats Gardens is perfectly geared up for social events throughout the year, creating a community element that we feel is really important in adding value to our tenants’ living experience.
We’re building a community with Ancoats Gardens, creating a place where likeminded, high-end, individuals will live, work and play. We are working with investors from all over the world on Ancoats Garden and the development is also open to new investment, with prices starting from £229,000 and going up to £500,000 for the penthouse suites.
Historically Ancoats was the thriving centre of the county’s cotton industry, with the architecture cementing the areas industrious past. Today, Ancoats is the city centre neighbourhood that every 20-something wants to live in and we’re very excited to launch our development there.
Another project we’re working on is in the heart of the Trafford Regeneration scheme. Manchester city centre is constantly growing and parts of the city that were once on the fringes are now joining up to create one big centre. This project is phase two of Westpoint and it will be our biggest development to date, with 600 units of co-living space that we think will help shape the future of living in Manchester.
Manchester’s prosperity, global workforce and growth in infrastructure has created insatiable demand from highly educated young people who want to work, live and socialise in the city centre. Our door is open for investors who want to contribute towards Manchester’s incredible growth.
Considering investing in a property in Manchester? Get in touch with our team.