Danilo Latsmanovich: We Worked on the Project of the Hotel in Canterbury Together with the City
A partner of the investment company Regency Project Management Danilo Latsmanovich told the Archcouncil portal about the British redevelopment experience.
— What interesting redevelopment projects from your experience could you name?
— To begin with, I’d say that our company effectively occupies a unique niche — it implements club financing of projects not in London, but in different cities throughout the UK, satisfying mass demand among the population with average income. An example of the «classical redevelopment» for England is the project we realized in Slough, from where the center of London can be reached by train in 18 minutes. And just a few minutes from Slough is Windsor Castle — the residence of British monarchs. We bought two office buildings in Slough and converted them into residential buildings. The price of apartments in Slough is from about 200 to 350 thousand pounds per unit of housing. In the first project we created 30 apartments, in the second — 73. By the way, in the first project one of the buildings is completely built of blocks. Interestingly, the maximum height of a block building is ten floors. Another example of redevelopment is in Weymouth, a resort town on the south-west coast of England that hosts festivals and concerts, so, during the holiday season it is full of life. In Weymouth, we bought a brewery, which is literally 300 meters away from the water. We changed it into a residential building. Specifically, this building was built in 1902 and functioned as a brewery until 1985, but beer here was already brewed in the 13th century. Within the framework of the project, 36 exclusive apartments and 18 townhouses will be built. In addition to residential premises we will build shopping areas, the city museum will be renovated.
— And, of course, your hotel project is next to the Canterbury Cathedral.
— Canterbury is the English Vatican, where the worldly famous Canterbury Cathedral, the main Anglican temple of Great Britain, is located. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And here, in the walls of the old city, in place of the old hotel we are building a five-story hotel Hampton by Hilton for 130 suites. Believe me, five floors for Canterbury is a lot: on the roof of a five-story hotel, there will be a restaurant with a unique view of the cathedral, and since the height of buildings is strictly controlled by the city administration, no one will be able to build a building higher and ours.
— Did you somehow coordinate the project with UNESCO?
— No, they did not require coordination, as the hotel itself is not an object of cultural heritage, but we worked hard and coordinated the project with the city and made adjustments for their norms. It is important to mention that parts of the old hotel were built in different time periods. We were allowed to demolish the newer part, built hastily after the Second World War on the site of the destroyed building, but when it came to the historical parts, we were only allowed to reconstruct. Even the permission for redevelopment was received separately for each of the blocks. Thus, we can say that this project was made in cooperation with the city. There were many investors who wanted to build on this site, but the city wanted a hotel, and we were on the same page with them. We hit the bull’s-eye, and after its commissioning Hampton by Hilton will be almost the only hotel of this level in the old city.
— Have you ever worked with older objects?
— Yes, in Eton, a city that became world-famous for its college. We are redeveloping a 15th century building in the very center of Eton. It is one of the oldest in the city and is on the register of historically important sites. In recent years, it housed a restaurant. The city authorities understood that without a new function the building would simply collapse, so we managed to come to a compromise. Since almost every century new parts have been attached to the building, the process of redevelopment is complicated: the degree of changes depends on the year of construction.
— In Moscow, there is a fairly successful system in place, in which the city provides a number of benefits for a developer restoring a site of cultural heritage. Is there such practice in England?
— There is a register of historically valuable buildings, they can be bought at auction, they are inexpensive, they can be restored. But there is another question, how the building will be used, much depends on it.
— Our large companies have been buying out entire mansions and rebuilding them for themselves. Do they do it in England?
— In England, they are trying to find a certain balance. For example, if you take the district of Mayfair in London, there were offices a time ago, then they were massively converted into housing, and today there are elite areas with expensive flats and residences. I’ve been noticing more and more projects where housing is converted into offices, it might be already the reverse process. This is a cycle. This «rebalancing» aligns demand and supply. A similar thing happens in the suburbs. The transport infrastructure improves, and demand for residential areas arises. In London, they are very expensive by local standards, so most people live outside the city and work inside it. It is clear that in the suburbs, the demand for housing is growing, and offices are often converted into residential real estate too.
— If we talk about the redevelopment practice in general, what is the difference between Moscow and, for example, London?
— The UK has a pressing problem of a lack of new housing (about 100,000 units per year) — demand exceeds supply. At the same time, the country’s population is growing every year. The government has a whole program of support for both developers and buyers. For example, in terms of redevelopment of office buildings into residential buildings: legally the procedure for obtaining permission is fairly simple, we can say that it goes almost like a notification procedure. So, the state helps to speed up the commissioning of new residential buildings. There is also a clear delineation of commercial and residential areas. In Moscow, as a buyer, I am confused by the vague legal status of apartments: someone’s office might be right next door to residential premises. At the same time, I see that both the government and leading developers are promoting legislative projects, following the best world practices. I think that in terms of development regulations and rules, UK legislation is a good example to follow and adapt.