Nigel Hugill and Robin Butler today announced the establishment of Urban&Civic, potentially an important new force in UK real estate. Urban&Civic is backed by GI Partners, the trans-Atlantic private equity house that has enjoyed considerable previous success in supporting experienced management teams, acquiring identified assets at what have proved to be low points in the cycle.
In the wake of the dot com collapse, GI Partners created and financed Digital Realty Trust that has gone on to become one of the best performing US REITs following listing on the NYSE in 2004, with a current market value of over $6 billion. GI Partners recently closed its third fund, GI Partners Fund III L.P. raising $1.9 billion (approx. 1.3 bln.) This Fund will provide the investment capital for Urban&Civic.
Urban&Civic will target strategic land and estate acquisitions of metropolitan or regional scale capable of sustaining new, or improved, places and environments. Building upon the experiences gained through 20 years of working together directing some of the most economically significant and value generative projects seen in the UK, the Stratford 2012 site, Bankside, Elephant and Castle, Greenwich Peninsular, Paddington Basin, Westfield White City (all in London) as well as the ground breaking new town centre at Brierley Hill, in the West Midlands, the Urban&Civic team is confident of its ability to source new opportunities in the current market conditions.
The first investment being made by Urban&Civic is in the former Alconbury Airfield, covering 1,100 acres, 24 miles west of Cambridge and 60 miles north of London, close to Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire. The geographic location and existing and prospective transport connections are excellent: the inter- section of the A1(M) and the A14 is within 2 miles of the main entrance. The property was commissioned as an American airbase during the Second World War and was declared surplus to requirements by the Ministry of Defence in March 1995. The existing estate comprises over 100 buildings, ranging across industrial and aircraft hangers, warehousing, office and fuel stores. Current gross income totals approximately £2.3 million, which Urban&Civic will look to increase. The purchase consideration, including adjoining land, is £27.5 million.
The Huntingdon area is one of the wealthiest and most commercially active in the UK. Over the past ten years employment levels in the Huntingdonshire district have increased by 26% - amongst the largest improvements in the country. 800 employees work for businesses currently occupying premises at Alconbury. Following an extended consideration and public enquiry, in which the Inspector recognised the strategic significance of the location, outline planning consent was granted in January 2004 for approximately 7 million ft² (648,000 m²) of new buildings, predominantly distribution warehousing and a major waste disposal facility. The consent is conditional inter alia on the construction of a new rail interchange on the adjoining East Coast Mainline. Enquiry costs were awarded in favour of the applicant.
More recently, alternative proposals have been mooted for a mixed development of regional importance combining the provision of both employment and residential uses within a balanced masterplan for the area. Estimates as to the amount of new housing that might reasonably be accommodated on the site range between 6 - 20,000 homes. Urban&Civic intend to enter into an early dialogue with stakeholders, notably Huntingdonshire District Council, with a view to establishing the most appropriate uses for the estate, going forward.
Urban&Civic is working on a pipeline of other prospective acquisitions and expects to make further announcements in due course.
Commenting upon the establishment of the new business, Nigel Hugill, Executive Chairman of Urban&Civic, said: "We have been working closely with GI for some months and are delighted to be able to announce their backing to Urban&Civic simultaneously with our first investment. Alconbury ab