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This Firm Is So Detail-Focused It Sends Its Staff To Live In Rival Schemes

David Marks, Brockton Capital

Brockton Capital's level of detail has helped it become one of the most successful U.K.-focused private equity real estate investor, raising a U.K. record £800M last year for its closed-ended value-add fund. At Bisnow’s recent London’s Hottest Areas event, co-founder David Marks gave insight into the microanalysis the company undertakes when planning its strategy and investments. 

It includes an intense review of the competition.

“We had two people from the firm living in The Collective in Old Oak Common for three months. We asked, who is going to go up there, because we need to understand this and the part it plays in delivering what London needs?”

Sending your team to live in a new type of co-living, micro-apartment scheme like The Collective is just the beginning of it.

Marks said when looking at new areas “we don’t just say, I fancy Paddington or Elephant & Castle or Greenwich”.

“We get down to the micro level and get obsessed about the micro details. We read a lot, and there was a lady who was a prolific writer in the '50s, '60s and '70s called Jane Jacobs who would write whole chapters about how the width of the sidewalk had to be right for an area to succeed — if the pavement is the correct width then that allows the community to spill out on to the street from bars, grocers and restaurants, that gives you eyes on the street and that makes an area safer than any amount of police could.”

Bisnow's Mike Phillips; Apache Capital's Richard Jackson; Schroder Real Estate's James Lass; U+I's Matthew Weiner; Brockton Capital's David Marks

In terms of how this detail works in practice, Marks explained the thinking behind the purchase of a former Addison Lee taxi maintenance garage in Kentish Town, North London. The building will be redeveloped into offices for FORA, the co-working business Brockton backs, in spite of the fact that Kentish Town is not a renowned office location.

“It has huge volume, great natural light, we thought we could get consent for more area and we did. It’s in a little side street, four or five minutes walk from the station, but it's triangulated by the new French lycée, Spring Studios, which is one of the top fashion photographic studios in London, and a famous photographer called Rankin has his studio just behind.

“You look at it on Google Maps and it just looks like a little side street in Kentish Town, but you go down there and its a very buzzy little micro pitch.”

When exploring leasing trends and momentum, Brockton's team does not just talk to the head of its leasing team. It talks with younger members to find out how many viewings they have booked. Central London leasing has held up relatively well post-Brexit, Marks said.

And the explorers who went native and lived in a co-living scheme — what did they report back?

“Whilst its not a perfect building, it’s a very daring and very bold attempt, and by the way, it’s totally full and buzzing and so in one sense it’s completely working. They talked about the good stuff, the bad stuff, what needs to be fixed and what can be fixed in the next project.”

Marks insists the two members of his team went there of their own volition. Either way, it shows how far the company is willing to go to get the details right.