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Places Are Just Spaces Until People Take Them To Heart

Colin Sinclair is Director of Workspace at Bruntwood. Having managed bands on international record labels he now leads the Liverpool office of one of the UK's largest property firms. @colindsinclair
Colin Sinclair is Director of Workspace at Bruntwood. Having managed bands on international record labels he now leads the Liverpool office of one of the UK’s largest property firms. @colindsinclair

WHAT makes a place a ‘place’?

‘Place making’ is a term that is used more and more these days when discussing regeneration and development projects.  The true definition of what makes a ‘place’ is fairly subjective, but invariably it involves a sense of community and togetherness.

What I’ve come to realise is that you cannot masterplan ‘community’; it comes from within.

Place making in its most basic form can be evidenced at “The Jungle” in Calais. From extremely humble beginnings in 1999, I was amazed to discover that The Jungle had become a fully-functioning place of its own; with a school, fully-stocked shop, medical facilities, homes, cafes, street art and music and even a theatre.

Clearly, this was not an enjoyable place to be and its residents would never have chosen to live there in perpetual limbo with little dignity or basic sanitation, but for many it felt like home, for a while at least.  However transient and unpleasant, The Jungle had somehow become a place with a soul and is further proof that if you put a group of like-minded people together and let them build the amenities they need, the result will be a fully functioning community.

The lesson for place-makers in the UK is far less vital in human terms but inspirationally simple nonetheless. Let your occupiers shape the environment in line with their own tastes, needs and ambitions, and don’t try to take off all the rough edges yourself.

I tend to think that places evolve best organically, borne from a spark of creativity and ignited by cafe and bar owners and local property developers; people who can sense an opportunity. This might be tinkered with along the way by planners, but ultimately it is shaped by those entrepreneurs and creatives who can predict or even influence customer demand.

Over time, these places become more commercial than was intended by their originators but they still hold together as a cluster of like-minded souls with a vibrant sense of place. Manchester’s Northern Quarter, Shoreditch, Margate (really), Bristol’s Stokes Croft and Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle have become or are quickly becoming places you really want to be in, to work, stay or play.

St Pauls Square is a good example of an evolving ‘place’ in Liverpool.  Anchored by The Plaza building and businesses like Weightmans and Hill Dickinson, the square never really felt like a place you’d want to hang around in. The opening of the new Bean café has made some difference and slowly, as the surrounding office buildings fill, it’s beginning to feel more like a place in its own right.

While it’s not there yet, I’m sure the newly re-elected Commercial BID team will be working with the people who live and work around the square to help shape it even further, drive forward change and create a place to be proud of.

Catching Up Fast As Our Brand Goes Global Again

As Manchester blazed a trail with its visionary public and private sector leadership during the past 20 years, the city’s “family” was often credited as the main force behind its post-industrial regeneration. This was in evidence again at the MIPIM international property convention in Cannes, where Manchester’s private-sector led delegation again enhanced its global brand and reputation.

Liverpool, by contrast, is closer to the start of that journey. A latecomer to the party, under the assured leadership of Deloitte’s Sean Beech, Liverpool returned to MIPIM two years ago and has quietly got on with making up for lost time. With its own strong civic leadership now in place, Liverpool has quickly become second only to London and Manchester in terms of the size of its private sector delegation and second to none in terms of the creativity of its pitch.

What was noticeable too at this year’s global property forum was the passion and individuality that is marking Liverpool out as the place to invest and prosper. At every meeting, every event, people were talking to me about Liverpool as the city region with the greatest potential to grow and it’s clear that investors are eyeing the city from afar with fresh optimism.

The other clear feature this year was that similar sense of family, as 36 sponsors and more than 50 delegates mixed together with their council and university counterparts as one community. Business deals were done and friendships were formed that will last a lifetime. We have become one city working together. Now is the time of the Liverpool family. A place where newcomers are welcomed with open arms and everyone helps each other.

So where Manchester has travelled so successfully, Liverpool now continues to progress, but with individuality; picking out its own path to ensure that both cities can achieve their rightful places in Europe and the wider global economy.

Top Ten Reasons Why We’re Best

Put yourself in the mind of a big global tech company looking to establish a presence in the UK. Naturally you’d think London, but it’s expensive, so is there anywhere else in the UK that would be worth a look? What could we tell you about Liverpool that would tempt you to get on the plane and come see for yourself?

Here’s a quick top 10 but could you come up with better ones? Why not email us at Good News Liverpool with your own favourite reasons?

1 The UK’s number one entrepreneurial city

2 Second-fastest growing tech cluster in the UK

3 Voted the UK’s friendliest city

4 Four lads that changed the world of music

5 The most popular city for Chinese students

6 Two international airports within 45 minutes’ drive

7 Second happiest city to work in the UK

8 The UK’s best conference centre

9 Liverpool Waterfront voted the best place in the UK

10 The most successful footballing city in the UK

Focus All Boils Down To Breakfast

Get cracking -having eggs for breakfast, green tea and chocolate helps productivity
Get cracking -having eggs for breakfast, green tea and chocolate helps productivity

I just can’t think right now…

Did you know that according to the University of California, people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds? Apparently it’s something to do with the impact of our increasingly digitalised lifestyles on our brains.

Sorry what was that?

Oh yes, I remember, there have been numerous suggestions for increasing concentration at work, from keeping your email inbox tidy to mastering the art of time management. That’s not going to happen so what else can we do?

Well, I’ve been reading up on ideas for improving concentration at work and, by my reckoning, these are the two food combinations most likely to keep you focused from dawn to dusk.

Av your breakfast scrambled

Few of us are likely to wake up earlier just too cook eggs, regardless of the benefits and indeed an egg butty on the way to the office may be much more realistic. The protein in eggs helps you feel fuller for longer and maintain more stable blood-glucose levels, while it also forms a necessary component of important neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine.

So “go to work on an egg” is back. Apparently researchers at Boston University have even found people who got plenty of choline (present in eggs) in their diets performed better on memory tests and were less likely to show brain changes associated with dementia.

If you are an early riser, scramble your eggs, serve with a ripe avocado spread on thick sunflower seed bread – and now you’re really cooking.

The thought is making me so hungry I can barely concentrate…

Afternoon green tea and a dash of Bournville

Yep, the bitter tasting stuff is best for you and is known to significantly help your mood and focus. The downside could be increased blood pressure, so you might want to put that bumper sized box back on the shelf right now.

Hang on! Salvation is at hand! If you combine eating that dark chocolate with a cup of green tea, the amino acid L-theanine, which is the relaxant found in green tea, you should experience an immediate drop in blood pressure. The chocolate will also make the green tea taste a bit nicer…


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