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Reflections on 2020

Reflections on 2020 – Lessons learned and looking forward

December 16th, 2020 Posted by All, News

Just over a year ago, we had just been crowned ‘Large Business of the Year’ at the 2019 Mercury Business Awards. The award win was the icing on the cake of what was another fantastic year of growth for the business and a year that had seen us oversee the design and delivery of numerous high-profile projects, including the completion of several major retail and leisure destinations, prime mixed-use developments and retirement villages. Of course, nobody could have foreseen what was waiting around the corner!

As we head towards the end of 2020, it’s interesting to reflect on how many of the assets that contributed to us winning the Mercury Business Award have seen us through a year that has been dominated by the global impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. The successful business growth that so impressed the judges was largely down to the fact that we have continued to apply the same rules as we did as a small business as we’ve grown – and that same ethos has been applied throughout the pandemic to great effect. Having created an inclusive and supportive place to work, we were able to involve all staff in the swift and decisive decisions that were required to keep the practice smoothly operating at the height of a national lockdown.

Adapting to the new normal

That’s not to say that the early stages of the first lockdown didn’t test us. Like many businesses, we had to adapt very quickly – and adapt we did! We were fortunate that, just prior to the pandemic taking its hold, we had already started to look at more flexible staff working arrangements – the lockdown immediately accelerated that process and our investment in an IT infrastructure to ensure everybody could work successfully from home has paid dividends. It has ensured quick response rates and continuity for clients, whilst also allowing our teams to collaborate and maintain a consistent level of service, understanding and creativity on projects.

Video conferencing has, in many instances, also proved popular with employees who feel that they can be more efficient when not having to worry about spending time stuck in traffic or on a train when travelling to meetings. These are positive lessons we can take forward post pandemic. However, we cannot wait to get back to being sat around a table as a team, thrashing out our ideas noisily and passionately and reaching the creative and considered conclusions for which we are renowned.

A broad and diverse specialism

As part of our award entry, we detailed how the business had purposefully started to diversify its portfolio as part of the year-on-year growth strategy. That strategy has truly paid off this year, as having a broad and diverse specialism that takes in everything from retail to leisure, later living to residential and has reduced our exposure to any one sector facing difficulties during the national lockdowns.

Inevitably, we saw a dip in retail and leisure work as lockdown measures started to bite, but our later living expertise has very much been in demand and we are working on a number of significant schemes in the sector with several more in the pipeline. Perhaps it is no surprise that the later living sector has come to the fore over the last 12 months, as conversations about how and where older people choose to live have taken on extra meaning during the current health crisis. With many elderly people living in remote locations, in towns and cities where people don’t know their neighbours, or their families and friends live far away, the concern is not only the lack of physical support these older people might need, but also the massive change in the quality of their mental and social lifestyle.

With the UK’s ageing population growing – the Office for National Statistics projects that more than 24 percent of people living in the UK will be aged 65 or older by 2042 – we firmly believe that there needs to be an increase in purpose-built later living communities where older people can socialise within their household and closer neighbourhoods. As this pandemic has proved, retirement villages can provide a controlled environment for the elderly, whilst still allowing for an active social lifestyle.

Whilst retail and leisure has certainly had a rough year, many businesses in the sector are now starting to contemplate a post pandemic future and we are seeing a growing number of enquiries as retail and leisure property owners seek ways to minimise the impact of the last 12 months on their assets. Even before the pandemic, the growth of ecommerce and a change in consumer behaviour had started to have serious impacts on the retail landscape and we have been helping landlords think differently about the spaces they own for a good number of years, especially the opportunities to be had in converting or redeveloping existing assets into alternative or complementary uses such as offices, hotels or even housing. For many landlords, the pandemic has added more urgency to that process and our expertise in the sector places us in a strong position to help.

Connecting to the local community

Whilst our morale has remained strong, we cannot deny that there have been one or two disappointments this year, not least the fact that we had to cancel our annual charity golf day. However, our attendance at last year’s Mercury Business Awards brought us into conversation with a local mental health charity called MindSpace who were there to collect the award for ‘Best Social Enterprise’. The charity was looking for new premises to further expand its offering and to bring together all its existing drop-in and therapy sessions.

Connecting to the local community and giving something back to the area that has contributed so much to the practice’s success has always been at the forefront of our vision. Ever since we met at the Mercury Business Awards and heard about MindSpace’s vital work we were keen to help out in their efforts to find a new and improved space for their work.

Once the unoccupied premises on Broad Street had been identified and secured, a 34-strong volunteer team from Urban Edge set about ripping up old flooring, stripping wallpaper, clearing the garden, and redecorating the interior of the new premises towards the end of the last year in preparation for this year’s opening. It was a brilliant few days, and a great team builder with everyone just getting stuck in. In February this year, we were delighted to see MindSpace finally move into their own larger premises and increase their reach into the community at a time where mental health support is even more important

Confident and forward looking

This year has certainly contrived to throw a lot at us, but we have continued to move forward and have even recruited four new team members during lockdown, including another significant appointee to our growing Landscape team. We have learned some valuable lessons, have significantly invested to ensure robust operational systems can deal with every eventuality, and we finish the year confident and forward looking. So, whilst it’s incredibly difficult to predict what next year may hold, based on our projected workload and the dedication of our hardworking staff, we are cautiously optimistic that 2021 will prove to be a good year for Urban Edge.

Parliamentary Review 2019, House of Commons

Urban Edge at the House of Commons

December 3rd, 2019 Posted by All, News

Urban Edge Architecture Director, Russell Gay, attended a gala evening at the House of Commons at the end of last month. The prestigious event, hosted by broadcaster and newspaper columnist Julia Hartley-Brewer, with guest speakers including former England footballer Sir Geoff Hurst, was the culmination of year in which the leading architectural practice has sought to inform and influence Government policy as a Best Practice Representative for the Parliamentary Review.

Rubbing shoulders with current and former Government ministers, policy makers and other business leaders in Westminster, Russ took the opportunity to discuss with them some of the most pressing issues facing the UK high street and retail property, as well as the pressing need for quality senior living provision in urban areas.

Also speaking at the event, former Labour Minister and Co-Chairman of the Parliamentary Review, David Blunkett thanked this year’s participants for their valuable insight into their respective industries and stressed the importance of politicians having a firm understanding of the challenges with which British organisations must contend.

“It has been a privilege to take part in this year’s Parliamentary Review and offer our expert insight, knowledge and best practice solutions to the people who make crucial decisions on policy,” said Russell following the House of Commons event. “I was greatly encouraged by Lord Blunkett’s assurances during the Parliamentary Review gala that our testimonies will be taken on board by parliamentarians and fed into future policy.”

The invite to the House of Commons followed Russell being chosen by former Conservative Communities Secretary Lord Pickles to take part in this year’s Parliamentary Review, an influential annual journal that shares best practice amongst the UK’s policy makers and business leaders. Urban Edge Architecture, winner of the ‘Large Business of the Year’ category at the 2019 Mercury Business Awards, was identified by the Parliamentary Review committee as an outstanding leader in its field and a best practice representative of its industry.

“It’s been a terrific year for Urban Edge Architecture,” concludes Russell. “We have overseen the design and delivery of numerous high-profile projects and seen our influence growing, particularly in the senior living sector. Whilst the practice works nationally on a portfolio of retail, specialist residential and leisure developments for high-profile clients, our recent award win and involvement in the Parliamentary Review has also seen our profile rise locally in Stamford and more broadly through Lincolnshire – important for a growing business looking to recruit the very best talent the region has to offer.”

Images courtesy of Westminster Publications.

  • Parliamentary Review 2019, House of Commons
    David Blunkett delivers his opening speech at the gala event
  • Parliamentary Review 2019, House of Commons
    The evening was hosted by Talkradio presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer
  • Parliamentary Review 2019, House of Commons
    England legend Sir Geoff Hurst speaking to an enthralled audience
  • Parliamentary Review 2019, House of Commons
    David Blunkett thanks this year’s participants for their valuable insight
  • Parliamentary Review 2019, House of Commons
    Guests enjoying refreshments on the balcony overlooking the Thames
  • Parliamentary Review 2019, House of Commons
    Guests taking the opportunity to experience the House of Commons
Accessible Retail Conference 2019

We’ll be talking sustainability at this year’s Accessible Retail Conference

October 4th, 2019 Posted by All, News, Retail

Senior Associate Director Dave Frost will be speaking at this year’s Accessible Retail Conference, the trade body which represents the property interests of the retail warehouse and retail park sector of the retail industry. Held at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in central London on the 10th October, and attended by some of the key influencers and decision makers in the sector, the theme of this year’s conference is Sustainable Partnerships.

Dave, who takes to the stage at 10.30am, will be discussing how we delivered Nando’s ‘next generation’ restaurant at Cambridge Retail Park – the chain’s most sustainable restaurant ever. Utilising ‘One Planet Living’ principles, the restaurant was designed to be extremely energy efficient, generate its own electricity and use waste heat from cooking for space heating. Material specification prioritised low-impact elements, fittings and furniture.

“Nando’s wanted to implement new sustainability principles and we produced a design that integrated this philosophy while complementing the existing retail park environment where the restaurant is located,” says Dave. “It presented an opportunity for us to build a restaurant using clean and sustainable materials, better design processes that reduced carbon impact and with technologies to operate the restaurant more efficiently. This pioneering development was an incredible journey for both Nando’s and Urban Edge and I look forward to recounting that journey and the learnings that came out of it with the Conference audience.”

Further details on this year’s Accessible Retail Conference can be found here.

Parliamentary Review 2019

Urban Edge Director Russell Gay contributes to influential Parliamentary Review

September 26th, 2019 Posted by All, News

We are delighted to announce that Director Russell Gay is a key contributor to this year’s Parliamentary Review, the esteemed annual journal that shares best practice amongst policy makers and business leaders. Featuring an exclusive foreword from the Prime Minister, an address from the Review’s co-chairmen Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, the Review has become one of the UK’s most influential reads for business people and politicians alike.

Identifying Urban Edge as an outstanding leader in its field, Russell was invited by former Conservative Communities Secretary Lord Pickles to take part in the Review earlier this year. Russell has also been invited to attend a high-level event at the House of Commons in late October where he will discuss some of the most pressing issues facing the property sector with parliamentarians, policymakers and other senior business leaders.

The 2019 edition of the Review is published this month and, as a best-practice representative, Russell has presented expert testimony on some of the key topics of the day, particularly the crisis enveloping the UK’s high streets and the practice’s response, providing innovative solutions for developers and property owners looking to repurpose their retail assets. Russell also takes the opportunity to discuss the need for senior living provision in our towns and cities, calling on policy makers to help facilitate the creation of mixed-use, multigenerational developments that can foster a diverse and sustainable urban and suburban economy.

“It is a privilege to be asked to participate in the Parliamentary Review alongside cabinet ministers, government agencies, associations and other leading businesses,” says Russell. “As an architectural practice acting for financial institutions, investment funds, developers and operators on projects throughout the UK we have much to contribute to the debate on the future our built environment.

“We have overseen the design and delivery of numerous high-profile projects with recent highlights including the completion of prime mixed-use developments and retirement villages and several major retail and leisure destinations. We are therefore in a privileged position to offer expert insight to the people who make crucial decisions on policy in these areas of the property sector.”

Writing in the 2019 Review’s foreword, Lord Pickles said: “The ability to listen to and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones… It is essential that politicians have a firm understanding of the challenges with which British organisations must contend; and that leaders in both the public and private sectors are aware of the difficulties faced by those working in all levels of politics, from local government to the national arena.”

You can read Russell’s contribution to the 2019 Parliamentary Review here.

Mercury Business Awards 2019 - Large Business of the Year

Urban Edge crowned Large Business of the Year

September 25th, 2019 Posted by All, News

We are delighted to announce that we have been crowned ‘Large Business of the Year’ at the 2019 Mercury Business Awards.

The announcement was made at a black-tie gala awards ceremony attended by more than 260 guests at the Greetham Valley Hotel on 20th September 2019. Directors Russell Gay and Tom McNamara, alongside Senior Associate Director Sonia Parol and Associate Director Darren Hodgson, were in attendance to collect the impressive trophy made from Lincolnshire limestone from host, Rutland Radio’s Rob Persani.

“It’s an absolute honour to be announced as the winner of the ‘Large Business of the Year’ category at the 14th annual Mercury Business Awards,” said Russell Gay. “This award recognises all that we have achieved over the last 12 years and the hard work, dedication and expertise of all our employees. Since our formation, we have seen year on year growth and have a strategy and vision to continue this trend.”

Slide

Russ and Darren were interviewed ahead of the Mercury Business Awards by Leo Media who put together this short film

The Mercury Business Awards, headline sponsored by economic development agency InvestSK, are the biggest of their kind in the Stamford, Bourne and Rutland area. Speaking at the awards ceremony, Rutland and Stamford Mercury editor Kerry Coupe said the awards were “about celebrating the best of our community” and said the standard of entries had once again been incredibly high. Indeed, the judges faced the tough task of narrowing down more than 150 entries to just a handful in each category.

Whilst we work nationally on a portfolio of retail, specialist residential and leisure developments for high-profile clients, we are a local employer with a large percentage of our workforce residing within Stamford and the surrounding areas. The business started with just three employees in 2007 and has grown to nearly 50 in 2019! We have worked tirelessly to give something back to the community that has contributed so much to our success. We are a supporter of local charities and, in 2015, established the Urban Edge Foundation to raise funds and awareness for established charities that support people whose lives have been mercilessly overturned by injury or chronic ill-health.

Mercury Business Awards

Urban Edge Architecture announced as finalist in the Mercury Business Awards 2019

July 16th, 2019 Posted by All, News

We are delighted to announce that we have been selected as a finalist within the ‘Large Business of the Year’ category for this year’s Mercury Business Awards.

The Mercury Business Awards, headline sponsored by economic development agency InvestSK, are the biggest of their kind in the Stamford, Bourne and Rutland area, and the judges faced the tough task of narrowing down more than 150 entries to just a handful in each category.

Our business started with just three employees in 2007 and has grown to nearly 50 in 2019. We are a local employer with a large percentage of our workforce residing within Stamford and the surrounding areas and are delighted to be recognised for our achievements over the last 12 years.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be included among the finalists in this year’s Mercury Business Awards,” said Darren Hodgson, Associate Director. “We are proud of Urban Edge and what we have accomplished and are delighted to be recognised for what we have achieved. We have been in Stamford for 12 years and hope that our success in these awards will increase our local exposure as a dynamic and engaged employer. We are very much looking forward to the finals in September.”

Winners of the Mercury Business Awards will be announced at a black-tie gala dinner awards ceremony at the Greetham Valley Hotel on Friday 20th September 2019.