Investors helping to develop the Newcastle Helix science and business park in Tyneside are ready to pump a further £60m into the site.
L&G first pledged £65m to invest in the science park in 2016. The 24-acre center is a partnership between Newcastle City Council, Legal & General and Newcastle University, with the partners hoping it will help create thousands of jobs, prime office and research space, and hundreds of new homes .
Six years after financing the construction of The Lumen and Spark office buildings – at the time the largest real estate deal in the city in decades – the institutional investor is keen to support the further development of the site, starting with a 60 million-rent residential complex consisting of two towers. There is also the potential to support additional buildings at Helix, including potential office space and research space, depending on what is needed to bring the Council and University vision to life.
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Legal & General Retirement Institutional (LGRI) CEO Andrew Kail announced the additional investment during a visit to the city with Newcastle-born Aysha Patel, LGRI’s Origination Director, and Ben Rodgers, Head of Regeneration, to meet members of the Meeting Newcastle City Council and Heads of Department at the University of Newcastle to see first-hand the impact of the Group’s investments to date.
He said: “The great thing about this place is that it feels like much more than a collection of buildings. It was really nice to see the buildings and how they have more connections to the west end of town. It’s been great to see it come alive as a community and place – and there’s still a lot more to do. The site still has a long way to go, but being on that journey and checking it out is really what today was all about.
“Our primary role is to develop the key properties that you see and also those that are being built for rent. One of the great things about Legal & General is that we have a wide range of investments and interests that we do for ourselves and our clients.
“If you think about what’s happening at the Biosphere, that’s exactly the kind of investment we’re excited to make. There are companies there investing in sectors like healthcare technology that are incredibly interesting to us. That is one of the advantages of the partnership. We are on site, we are not just outside capital that came in with subsidies and then disappeared again.
“By being local and being part of the partnership with the university and council, we have more access to some of the great companies in the biosphere and the original buildings that are innovating and developing and wanting partnerships in capital cities. At Legal & General we have a proposition – we are start-ups, scale-ups and adults – we invest in companies at every stage to help them when we can, when it aligns with our purpose and strategy.”
The plans for the two towers, which are part of the original master plan, have yet to be finalized and submitted for planning permission, but have the potential to create 300 homes.
Mr Kail said: “There are still many hurdles to overcome but it would be great to see the residential area that we own and that is being planned and built. It will be great for website and great for Legal & General.
“The build-to-rent program would work really well for us. A perfect asset for us is fixed amounts of income over many, many years and that is what building for rent is – we are constantly looking for such assets and that is why the potential for the location here is so attractive.”
On the Leveling Up agenda, Mr Kail says Legal & General has supported nationwide urban regeneration long before the term was coined, as evidenced by its investments in Newcastle, £100m Riverside Sunderland and similar projects in Leeds, Manchester and Cardiff .
£30bn has been invested in projects that would today be classified as leveling up, he said, and much more is needed if the government’s plan is to succeed.
He added: “If you take some of the estimates just for infrastructure alone, we have £1 trillion to spend in the UK over the next 10 years. Our estimates are that the insurance industry can fill 20% of that gap through the pension transfer work we do. So if you’re the government and you’re wondering how we plan to implement this leveling up agenda, Legal & General and corporations like us are an incredibly important part because we have the capital to make this happen as long as the planning and ideas and schemas are viable.”