Property developer has lofty ambitions



Property developer Highcross is seeking buildings from across the north of England to buy with the  remaining £100m from its third fund.

The firm, which bought the Deva Centre office complex in Manchester last July in a £10.4m deal, has said that it is looking for buildings “with an asset management angle like a big void or an imminent lease expiry” where it can refocus the offer before bringing it back to market.

Senior asset manager Alex Hyams said: “We’re not after dry investments with 25 years to run on their lease at top rents.”

By way of example, the firm bought an empty office building, Saviour House, within York’s city walls for £2.85m in November 2010. It has since completed an overhaul of the 24,904 sq ft building, re-let the space to Great Rail Journeys, Mott McDonald and law firm Harrison Goddard Foote before putting it back up for sale for £4.15m.

“That was quite a quick turnaround,” said Hyams, who is based at the firm’s Manchester office at a Bizspace development at Empress Mill in Old Trafford.

“We generally have a three-to-five year holding plan, but in that case we achieved what we needed to so put it back on the market.”

Other recent turnarounds have included Crewe213 – a 213,000 sq ft unit at the Crewe Gates Industrial Estate on a 9.4-acre site. The unit was bought in October 2010, refurbished, re-let to Warehouse One Distribution on a ten-year lease at an annual rent of £693,196 (£3.50 per sq ft) and has been placed back on the market with a price tag of £6.65m.

In Bromborough, it bought the 126,689 sq ft Thermal Ceramics production unit at Wirral International Business Park and renegotiated a previously-agreed break clause before putting the unit back out to market with an asking price of £3.05m.

Hyams said the firm had recently invested £500,000 in the Deva Centre on the Salford/Manchester city centre border, which it has now rebranded as Deva City Office Park.

The complex, which is on the site of the former Threlfalls brewery, offers car parking with direct access to Trinity Wat and the city’s inner ring road off but also improving links to the city centre through Bruntwood’s Riverside complex and the Irwell River Park project.

“Work is ongoing with Network Rail to install improved lighting within the railway arches via its pedestrian entrance off Chapel St.

“It’s sensibly-priced and it gives occupiers their own front door. As a product it’s quite distinctive in the city.”

The quoting rent is £15 per sq ft.

Highcross was founded in 1982 by Sir Peter Michael, who invented the split-screen technology now used on rolling news channels worldwide.

The company, which is based at Newbury in Berkshire, was initially used for his own property investments but has subsequently completed three fundraisings bringing in £1.5bn.