The more unpalatable side of Estate Agency has often involved property developers with many a deal struck in a smoky pub. Whilst cigarettes may have been banned from public places, property developers remain omnipresent, albeit in the shadows, always on the hunt for the next opportunity.
Last summer Mountgrange Heritage realised that the culture of development deals stood quite separate from their successful ‘open-market’ estate agency business and established a Residential Development & Investment department whose modus operandi is strictly limited to focus on the world of property development.
The department consists of Alex Verbeek, who has worked for Mountgrange Heritage in the residential sales department for several years, and David Clifton, who joined the firm last year bringing with him over 10 years planning and property development experience. Together Alex and David make a dynamic and formidable team.
“Every day varies, attending planning meetings one minute, walking around derelict buildings the next and then pouring over endless floor plans for schemes yet to be built!” explains David. “Our client base is varied but many have had long-standing relationships with the firm and have been developing in the area for many years,” he adds, “though our postcodes attract an increasing amount of foreign investment.”
Alex has been a resident of Notting Hill for the majority of his life. This intimate knowledge of Notting Hill allows him to appreciate the qualities the area has to offer and to bring this knowledge to the advice he gives to clients. Together, Alex and David take great interest in people’s lives and the area in which they work and live.
“There is obviously an emotional element to the job,” says Alex, “Recently we went up to Kensal Rise to look at what was the local library, which was shut down not long ago by Brent Council. There were people camped outside protesting the loss. The ultimate owner of the library is All Souls College, Oxford and while the majority of the trustees are academics, likely to sympathise with the local residents, their hands are tied by the rules of their Trust. So while it is often hard to work out what is the right thing to do, it is often more difficult to make a desirable solution viable.”
Other schemes are less contentious. Building land in Central London is scarce so Alex and David are constantly looking at recycling existing buildings. “Disused properties and warehouses are favourites with our clients as well as the shabbier hotels and lodging houses that can be given a new lease of life and restored to their full glory,” explains David. “While every change is lamented by someone things never stand still, being part of some of these changes is rewarding and often exciting,” he adds.
The words “legacy” and “optimism” have been widely used by various commentators in relation to the Olympics in the past weeks and these are words that the pair adopt in their work. “We see how investment and development in Westbourne Grove has regenerated the entire area and ironically how it is this street that people now associate with Notting Hill” says David. Alex adds, “Though much of this regeneration has deep cultural roots and has been going on for a very long time, we now see this trend over flowing into the surrounding areas of North Kensington where Golborne Road and the areas around the Grand Union Canal are being transformed by regeneration and investment.”
As you would expect, much of the work undertaken by Alex and David takes place behind “closed doors”. If you have any interest in property deals in and around Notting Hill, Kensal Rise, Bayswater and beyond, a call to Mountgrange Heritage’s Development and Investment department could prove most profitable.
Published in Absolutely Notting Hill, August 2012