Students were welcomed on arrival at the Cardinal Place marketing suite by Land Securities Chief Executive Rob Noel, who spoke for 30 minutes on the London market, development cycles, and the challenges of running a major listed property company. Nova Development Director Justin Black followed with an overview of the project, including a history of the site, the assemblage and the planning. Justin addressed "placemaking" and design objectives and the developer’s thinking on a project of this scale and impact: juggling "what works" (in terms of placemaking, planning and stakeholder support) with "what's worth" (i.e. value generators). He addressed pre-acquisition development feasibility analysis, the planning process, and working with local government, local communities and other interest groups. At an analytical level, Justin talked about how Land Securities set milestones for the project and measured performance, highlighting key metrics and return targets.
After the introduction, students were led across the road to the site office, where they donned full PPE (personal protective equipment) gear, saw a safety video, and then were provided with an overview of the project's construction by main contractor Mace's Construction Director, Tim McKevitt. Tim, his colleagues and lead architect Mark Kelly, from PLP Architecture, then led students up the hoist to the top floor of the project, offering insights on construction techniques, detailed design issues (including car and bus traffic and pedestrian flows, building setbacks and integration with Victoria Station). The group was treated to a 360 degree view of the Victoria area (including a peek across the gardens of Buckingham Palace!). The visit ended with lunch at a local restaurant, generously sponsored by Land Securities and the Cambridge Land Economy Advisory Board.
One student wrote:
I found this year's RE02 field trip to be hugely beneficial. The REF course seeks to offer its students an holistic view of real estate as an asset class, and a field trip like Nova is crucial for students to develop a better understanding of the "brick and mortar" side of the business - and all the complexities that surround it. While the RE02 coursework is very rigorous in its treatment of the theory of the development process, it is ultimately just that - theory. The RE02 field trip provided us with an invaluable opportunity to see this theory in practice - thereby providing a frame of reference that helps some of the theory "stick". The field trip facilitated a more complete understanding of the real estate value chain which, I believe, is essential if one is to make an accurate and fair assessment of any property or real estate backed asset. I can strongly recommend this field trip as one of the most valuable opportunities that I experienced during my time at Cambridge.
Student response was uniformly positive.