We like to say, “There are no cold calls in CREW.” The hospitality we received while participating in CREW Network’s inaugural Global Study Mission to London exemplified our camaraderie. Fifteen CREW members from across the US participated in an incredible week of industry tours, presentations and networking. Here's a brief recap of the week, with contributions from fellow participant Cathy Leap of CREW Seattle:
Dinner kicked off the first of many meals together. We had the chance to meet each other and share why we wanted to be a part of the inaugural Global Study Mission.
We started at the King’s Cross office of Cushman & Wakefield and learned about the office and mixed-use sectors in the UK. We were then treated to an insider’s tour of the community spaces in the heart of King’s Cross, a 67 acre development in a formerly blighted industrial area in the middle of London.
Tuesday afternoon was spent on a guided walking tour of the City of London, the historic 1 square mile powerhouse of international financial giants. Home to some 500,000 workers during the day, but only 8,000 residents, this area hosts everything from centuries-old churches and banks to high-street retail and neighborhood pubs. Our docent David Harry, a VP at Deutsche Bank who moonlights as a city tour guide, provided a bespoke real estate focused peek into this storied quarter.
Our first full day ended with an evening networking event with CREW UK at the top of the Swiss Re Tower (AKA “The Gherkin”). Surrounded by sweeping views of London, we networked with current and potential CREW UK members, and shared stories of our CREW experiences and building our network of women in commercial real estate.
We started our second morning with JLL where we learned about the multi-family sector across the UK and Europe. While homeownership rates remain about 5% higher than in the US, the rental market in London is booming as the population continues to explode. International investors own about two-thirds of the real estate in the UK, and they’re betting big on unique projects like the Battersea Power Station
(BPS). During our tour of BPS, we discovered that the former power plant situated along the River Thames is being converted into a mixed-use, multi-family neighborhood. It will include everything from affordable housing to a $25M penthouse. BPS will bring so much density it will be served by a new Underground station and ferry docks for boat commuters.
During our second afternoon, the CREW UK board assembled a lively and informative panel to discuss Gender Balance and Diversity. We met at the offices of Norton Rose Fulbright and our panelists were from Deloitte, Oxford Properties Group, Savills and Holtby Turner. CREW Network 2019 President Holly Neber, CEO of AEI Consultants, also joined the discussion. The exchange reminded us that diversity and equity aren’t just HR issues. They’re healthy business issues, and diversity of all types is critical to the health and sustainability of an organization.
We ended our evening with a private tour of the Churchill War Rooms followed by dinner. Visiting the underground bunker that housed the nerve center supporting Winston Churchill and Britain’s WWII headquarters was such a unique experience. The history buffs among us were enthralled.
Money makes the world go ‘round, and a session at Deutsche Bank on the flow of capital, both into London and globally, was a great way to kick off the day. Afternoon brought a presentation on augmented reality (AR) in CRE. Much like bitcoin and blockchain, augmented reality is a tech-based game changer for our industry. Some are embracing it thoroughly, while others remain apprehensive given the risk related to cyber-attacks.
We capped off our day with a ride on the London Eye and an incredible view high across London just below the rain clouds.
Our last day on the Global Study Mission was chock-full of presentations and tours by very unique landlords that we don’t see frequently here in the US: Estates. The “Great Estates” are some of London’s oldest landowners such as the Royal Family and other famed nobility. Grosvenor, which has been developing high-end neighborhoods in London since 1677, shared with us the revitalization and preservation of several unique and historic spaces throughout Mayfair and Belgravia.
You can’t come to London without talking about the Royal Family. Our final presentation/tour was hosted by CBRE who represents The Crown Estate’s properties across London. They shared with us not only a very interesting presentation on Cities of the Future, but we also toured the Crown’s first foray into co-working spaces, One Heddon Street
. Beautifully appointed, and strategically located, this brand-new space concept for The Crown has taken off, with several more planned.
Our closing dinner was on a riverboat cruising the Thames, providing waterfront views of many of the places we had toured and seen throughout our exhilarating week. An amazing time was had by all, and we resoundingly agreed that we’d love to do it again.
This trip was all the best that CREW Network represents—business, community and connectivity in support of women in Commercial Real Estate. I am grateful to have been able to participate and make new business contacts and friends across the US and the UK, and I anxiously await the next Global Study Mission.
Global Study Mission Key Learnings
- 80% of Europe’s population is centered around urban cores
- By 2050, it is estimated we will need 50% more food, 45% more power and 30% more water to accommodate worldwide population growth
- Landlords in the UK see sustainability and the resulting accountability and transparency as critical to their success
- The vast majority of skyscrapers in London are less than 20 years old
- In order to build a new skyscraper, the architect and engineers must also include plans for disassembling of the building just to obtain a permit
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Kimberly Phipps-Nichol owns Blue Water Studio, a design and planning consultancy in Houston, Texas that specializes in health, wellness, community and sustainability projects across the U.S. Phipps-Nichol is currently working on a wide range of projects, including an affordable housing community for veterans, a rooftop farm & event space and a by-women, for-women, co-working space in a historic, downtown Houston building..