MIPIM: Leicestershire attracts attention of international financier
An international financial broker is to visit Leicester to assess the potential of a landmark development site.
The news is one of a number of positive outcomes from the biggest-ever official Leicestershire delegation to MIPIM, Europe's largest property fair, last week.
Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby and Leicestershire County Council leader Nick Rushton headed a 25-strong county delegation to Cannes, in the south of France, aimed at showcasing 29 development sites to global investors.
The pair met with Stephen Barter, chairman of KPMG Real Estate, who specialises in advising global investors on the viability of development plans.
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Mr Barter expressed interest in the New Walk Centre site, the Leicester City Council headquarters which is to be vacated by the authority later this year, to make way for its demolition.
Mr Barter will now visit the city and meet Sir Peter again.
Sir Peter and Councillor Rushton also spoke to regional construction firm Willmott Dixon about the New Walk site and the £200 million extension to Loughborough Science Park.
Sir Peter said: "There was a number of different types of discussions with people in the construction business, through to people who own land and people who want to invest in land and property in Leicester.
"Also, we had the opportunity to talk to people whose job it is to put financial deals together.
"That's particularly relevant when you look at some of the bigger sites in and around the city.
"This was very relevant to the New Walk site. There were some quite interesting and different suggestions that have been made."
The city council said the 1.6-acre New Walk site could become a large-scale office, hotel or conference centre, with shops, bars and restaurants.
It comes after the council announced it intends to quit the crumbling 1970s concrete tower blocks by the end of the year and is trying to find a buyer for the site when it is demolished.
Coun Rushton said KPMG's Mr Barter and Willmott Dixon had also expressed interest in Loughborough Science Park.
The expansion of the park would create a "business village" close to the town's university which would bring 4,000 hi-tech jobs. The county council and Charnwood Borough Council have put £2 million into the scheme.
Coun Rushton said he had discussed ideas about attracting further investment into the project.
The delegation, organised by Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP), was sponsored by 17 businesses, who provided the funding to allow Sir Peter, Coun Rushton, LLEP chairman Andrew Bacon and other officials to travel to Cannes.
It came after previous delegations caused controversy because they were funded by public money.
Mr Bacon said: "What we have managed to do is build some very good relationships that will help us build some innovative financial solutions.
"Getting an organisation like KPMG Real Estate interested in potential schemes is great for us.
"The discussions and follow-on meetings will really deliver the value of being at MIPIM."
One of the 29 county schemes being showcased was the Motor Industry Research Association's (Mira) £300 million technology park, near Hinckley, which has been given enterprise zone status by the Government and is set to create 2,000 jobs.
George Gillespie, chief executive of Mira, said: "We have probably had a couple of decent opportunities. They may not be tenants, but partners who may help deliver the park."
Mr Gillespie said he was pleased to see such a large delegation from the county and felt Mira's enterprise zone status should be marketed more heavily next year.