I spent my first two days at MIPIM in the Northern Caucasus (see photograph). Well, I was actually in Cannes, but as I was representing the Northern Caucasus Resorts Company, who were promoting a $15 billion ski tourism project, I spent a lot of time lapping up the mountain atmosphere on our stand, voted by Estates Magazine as one of the most innovative at MIPIM this year. It’s an exciting and ambitious project, attracting lots of press and hopefully soon, investors.
Day job aside, I also had the chance to check out who was promoting what in London, Paris (my home until September 2010), and elsewhere.
Boris Johnson was in fine form, hailing London as the best city in the world (citing a CitiGroup study). Certainly the London tent always seemed livelier than its Paris rival, but that may have been due to the free bar with sea views. Inside the tent, Lend Lease were revealing their 371,600 square ft Olympic legacy development – The International Quarter, Stratford City. The bidding process was also opened for further development opportunities on the site. Plans were shown off for a series of urban villages at Earls Court to replace the exhibition centre. And teams from the LDA and Newham showed that the log-jam over development at the Royal Docks may be ended, with excitement about potential new tenants such as Google or Facebook.
Coming back to the UK I was rather disheartened (but not in the least surprised) by the short-sightedness of the local press, slamming the French Riviera champagne-swilling in a time of crisis. Britain needs to reach monied investors as it competes in the global market place, and there’s plenty of other countries much better at networking than us, so if anything we should be doing more champagne pouring (although we could perhaps tone down the actual drinking ourselves!). If MIPIM ever recovers to its boom-time size (when people told me it was difficult to move), how about a MIPIM 2 in Birmingham?
But I digress. I only had time for a whistle stop tour round some of the other exhibits. In the Paris tent I was intrigued about plans for a new Champs Elysee near Le Bourget airport (“well, not exactly the Champs Elysee,” said the promoter when I raised an eyebrow, “but a strong retail offering.”). I stopped to see the Barcelona stand, hailed by ULI as an example of how to thrive despite spending cuts. And, because it was nearby, I studied the bold plans to make Kigali the key commercial business centre in East Africa. They have spent $7 million on masterplanning since 2006 and are certainly ambitious, but just like their coffee (which smelt great but was served very watery) you’d have to check how it looks on the ground to really feel what is going on. The sausages at the Munich tent attracted a consistently large crowd, showing the important synergies between cultural delicacies and real estate.