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Placefirst appoints new Chief Executive and Chairman to lead next phase of growth

Placefirst, one of the UK’s leading providers of award-winning rental communities, is pleased to announce the appointment of St Modwen veteran Bill Oliver as Chairman and Kier’s David Mawson as Chief Executive as the firm continues its ambitious expansion plans. Bill and David will begin in early March 2020, taking over from David Smith-Milne, Placefirst’s founder.

Bill, a veteran of the housebuilding market with over 35 years’ experience, currently serves as Non-Executive Deputy Chairman of Churchill Retirement Plc and Non-Executive Director of Safestore Holdings Plc. Bill retired from the Board of FTSE 250 property developer St Modwen in 2016, having joined as Finance Director in 2000 before stepping up the role of CEO four years later. Prior to St Modwen, he held roles at Barratt Developments, Alfred McAlpine, The Rutland Group and Dwyer Estates. A qualified Chartered Accountant, Bill was a member of the advisory board of the Government’s Regeneration Investment Organisation and a Land Commissioner for the West Midlands Combined Authority.

David Mawson is an experienced managing director with a track record in delivering organic development and profitable growth. He joins from Kier Group plc where he latterly led the group’s FM Business, Housing Maintenance Business and Environmental Business. Prior to Kier, David held a number of Director roles at Connaught and Wharfedale Developments and had a voluntary position as a Non-Executive Board Member of Community Gateway Housing Association.

Placefirst is a pioneer of the fast-growing BTR (build-to-rent) market and has delivered over 500 homes across the north of England, specialising in transforming neglected inner-urban neighbourhoods through innovative refurbishment, development and a commitment to community placemaking.

A blend of cornerstone and new investment from ESO Capital supports Placefirst’s ambitious growth plans. With a secured pipeline of over 1,500 homes and an ambition to deliver 4,000 homes by 2023, the company is set to expand from its north of England base into new regions including the Midlands and Scotland. The near-term development pipeline includes new sites at Wolverhampton, Bolton, Newcastle and Manchester.

The company has significantly broadened its senior executive team under the leadership of Placefirst founder David Smith-Milne, who led the business since its foundation in 2009 and has now stepped back from the managing director role as part of a transition plan. David was instrumental in shaping the strategy and building the strong relationships with local authorities, landowners and other stakeholders which set the foundations for strong future growth. David has sold a substantial amount of his stock in Placefirst to ESO Capital, albeit remains a significant shareholder. He is now exploring other property start-up ventures.

Bill Oliver, Chairman of Placefirst, commented:

Placefirst is one of the UK’s truly inspirational developers of rental housing, providing modern families with the quality homes they need. There is no coincidence that the build-to-rent market is growing rapidly as we struggle as a nation to solve the acute shorting of housing. I am very much looking forward to applying my experience to support Placefirst’s growth.

Bill Oliver

 

David Mawson, incoming Chief Executive of Placefirst, added:

I am delighted to be joining Placefirst at such an exciting time for the company. Through the strong leadership of founder David Smith-Milne, Placefirst has quickly established itself as a leader in the UK build-to-rent market and has an ambitious pipeline of funded growth. I’m looking forward to working with the talented Placefirst team and hitting the ground running when I join in early 2020.

David Mawson

David Smith-Milne, founder and former managing director of Placefirst, commented:

Having founded Placefirst some 10 years ago, I am proud that we are now firmly recognised as a pioneer in developing homes for rent properties. It is a testament to the team that Placefirst offers a genuine quality alternative to home ownership for the growing number of in-work households unable to access home ownership and our commitment to quality has resulted in over 20 national and regional awards over the last three years. I have no doubt that the firm will go from strength to strength.

David Christie, Head of ESO Real Estate, commented:

David Smith-Milne’s enthusiasm and drive to grow Placefirst was one of the key reasons we were attracted to first invest in the business back in 2016. We want to thank him for all his hard work and dedication and wish him well for the future. We welcome Bill Oliver and David Mawson, who offer a wealth of industry knowledge, and look forward to working with them as Placefirst pushes forward with its next phase of growth towards becoming a national leader in UK build-to-rent housing.

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Placefirst named Residential Innovator of the Year at Estates Gazette Awards 2019

The 2019 Estates Gazette Awards took place on Tuesday 22nd October at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, attracting over 900 of the UK’s property leading property professionals.

Hosted by Strictly Come Dancing’s Claudia Winkleman, the awards are one of the most prestigious in the UK property event calendar. This year Estates Gazette focussed wholly on celebrating the individuals and businesses at the forefront of innovation, those who are changing the property sector and built environment for the better.

In a toughly contested category including Ballymore, Places for People, L&G and Get Living, the judges felt that Placefirst’s particular approach to build-to-rent was the overwhelming winner of Residential Innovator of the Year. Here’s what the judges had to say:

Phenomenal, brave, different and focusing on a sector of the market that is underserviced. Placefirst is not just an innovator but the future of residential.

Since handing over the keys to our first residents in December 2014, Placefirst have delivered over 600 homes across the north of England that are setting new standards in private renting. Aimed primarily at households on modest incomes, our £70m investment programme has successfully regenerated neighbourhoods deemed areas of last resort through innovative property remodelling and community-led placemaking.

ABOVE: The Welsh Streets, Liverpool. Streets of Victorian terraced housing have been brought back to life through innovative remodelling and refurbishment.

 

Through long-term build-to-rent investment, Placefirst are demonstrating that high quality homes and placemaking can be delivered in complex inner urban areas without reliance on public subsidy. Our rental communities to date have transformed over 1000 empty properties, creating modern, energy-efficient homes complimented by parks and gardens where families can put down roots.

We have an ambitious programme of new-build development ahead of us and are currently on site with new rental communities in Sheffield and Sunderland where we are delivering over 220 homes. Our aim is to deliver 4000 homes across the UK by 2023 and firmly establish Placefirst as an innovative leader in UK residential development.

Martin Ellerby, Head of New Business & Innovation at Placefirst commented: “This is a phenomenal achievement for an SME based in Manchester, taking on some of the biggest and best players in the residential sector. The words from the judges were particularly humbling and serve as reminder to keep striving and innovating, never accepting ‘OK’ and always seeking to improve our offer.

We are in a privileged position at Placefirst – for too long renting has been seen as a second-class tenure and this has played its part in the poor quality we see in many areas of the private rental sector. Individuals and families who rely on renting deserve a nice home and community as much as homeowners and, through long-term build-to-rent investment, we are demonstrating this is indeed possible and that renting can provide a genuine alternative to ownership.

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Placefirst appoints Paul Westhead as Director of Development

Placefirst, one of the UK’s leading build-to-rent developers, has appointed Paul Westhead as Director of Development. In a new role for the company, Paul will play a key senior role in helping Placefirst achieve its planned target of 3,500 homes by 2023.

With over 30 years’ experience in finance, regeneration and housing, Paul joins Placefirst from Trafford Housing Trust. In his previous roles as Head of New Business and more recently Head of Land and Partnerships, Paul helped establish Laurus Homes, a development subsidiary of Trafford Housing Trust and help set up the innovative joint-venture LLP with the L&Q Group. As Head of New Business Paul led the team that has successfully sourced land for over 2000 mixed tenure homes and prepared those projects pre-construction for the LLP in the past 3 years and established other JV structures to help accelerate housing delivery.

Placefirst designs, builds and manages a growing portfolio of award-winning rental communities that have successfully regenerated inner urban areas through innovative remodelling of Victorian terraced housing. As the company targets 3,500  homes by 2023, the company is diversifying its offer through a range of new-build developments including family housing and multigenerational town centre schemes across the north of England, the Midlands and Scotland.

ESO Real Estate, a majority shareholder in the company, has provided a capital commitment to in excess of £55m, and has been integral in supporting Placefirst to build its organisational infrastructure including the development of Placefirst Construction, the principal contractor for all the company’s developments.

Paul will lead the development strategy of Placefirst to realise their business objectives and growth targets of 3,500 homes by 2023.

Paul commented: “Having enjoyed seven great years at Trafford Housing Trust, and achieved significant growth and diversity, I believed it was the right time to seek a new challenge. The opportunity to join the Placefirst team, to build on the tremendous success they have achieved through their award-winning placemaking and community led developments, was one I could not turn down and I look forward to helping the organisation scale up to meet the housing need of our communities.”

David Christie, Chairman of Placefirst, added: “We are delighted that someone of Paul’s calibre, with proven experience of large-scale housing delivery, has joined the Placefirst team. Paul will play an important role in the next phase of growth towards becoming a national leader in UK build-to-rent housing. There is a genuine need for developers to work with local authorities in the UK to address the acute shortage of housing for families, and Paul has demonstrated considerable success in building strategic relationships.

“During the course of our partnership, Placefirst has enhanced its operational capabilities and, as importantly, with the support of a committed capital facility from ESO Real Estate, Placefirst has been able to access more deals and execute its business plan more effectively, delivering more value and more homes.”

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Placefirst 2018 Review

The review summarises all the things we have achieved over the last twelve months and highlights the many of the key events throughout the year.

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Welsh Streets wins Refurbishment of the Year Award at Building 2018

The 2018 Building Awards took place on the evening of 6th November at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London.

Now In its 24th year and regarded as one of the most prestigious UK development awards, the event was attended by over 1,400 senior-level directors, chief executives and partners from across the breath of the industry.

Hosted by Rob Brydon and packed with entertainment, the evening was an unparalleled opportunity to highlight success, instil pride and celebrate the very best in UK construction.

Placefirst’s regeneration of The Welsh Streets was awarded Refurbishment Project of the Year, beating off competition from high profile shortlist including The Royal Academy of Arts, The Temperate House at Kew Gardens, and the former BBC Television Centre.

The judges commented: “Welsh Streets is a radical build-to-rent scheme that encourages community and provides a blueprint for developers all around the country to copy.

For a full summary of why the Welsh Streets was chosen at Refurbishment of the Year can be found on the Building website.

The Refurbishment of the Year Award is now the eighth award for The Welsh Streets in 2018, having previously collected three British Homes Awards, three North-West Property Awards, and a Business Insider Liverpool City Region Award.

David Smith-Milne, Managing Director at Placefirst commented:

2018 has been an amazing year for Welsh Streets, but to win this award against such high profile competition is particularly special. Everyone involved in the project has worked so hard to make this a special place for our residents. The homes are unique within Liverpool, offering 21st centrury homes within the shell of traditional Victorian terraces, and setting a new benchmark in affordable market rent”

The Building Awards judges include David Birkbeck (Chief Executive of Design for Homes), Ike Ijeh (Architecture Correspondent at Building) and Lynne Sullivan OBE (Chair of Good Homes Alliance).

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Placefirst Construction makes trio of senior appointments as it targets £110m turnover.

Frank Mondino (pictured left), former area director of Keepmoat, heads a trio of senior appointments by Placefirst Construction, the construction subsidiary of Placefirst, to drive the company’s growth plan. The award-winning Manchester-based developer, which began life refurbishing derelict terraced properties in small northern towns, now benefits from a strong national pipeline of development sites that will enable the company to build 4,000 homes for market rent by 2022.

Placefirst Construction is the in-house construction arm of the business and currently acts as the principal contractor for all of the company’s developments. The growth plan will see Placefirst Construction turnover grow from £28m in 2018 to £110m by 2020.

Charged with delivering that growth will be Frank Mondino, former North West area managing director of Keepmoat Regeneration, where he managed a development portfolio worth almost £100m and a 1200-strong workforce, including subcontractors.

During 22 years at Keepmoat Regeneration and its predecessor Bramall Construction, Frank worked across several sectors including residential and commercial, with achievements centred around housing. Typically delivering around 500 residential units annually within a mix of tenures including rented and open market sale, retirement and supported housing, alongside refurbishment and maintenance of around 5,000 properties, across the North West of England for both private and social landlords. He will take up the newly created post of managing director of Placefirst Construction, joining an already established and high quality senior team.

Joining Frank at Placefirst Construction are commercial director Pete Adams (pictured right), and senior technical manager, Johnson Mulk (pictured centre).

Pete was formerly commercial manager at Wates, where he played a key role in major schemes such as £60m high-spec student accommodation at Circle Square, Manchester for Select Property Group and an £82m project to deliver 1500 homes and apartments. Prior to his time at Wates, Pete held the same post at Galliford Try Partnerships having been regional chief quantity surveyor with Lovell Partnerships.

Completing the three senior arrivals at Placefirst Construction is Johnson Mulk, formerly technical manager at Prospect (GB) Ltd, where he was solely responsible for the technical performance of the business and specialised in key areas of expertise including, planning, surveying, civil infrastructure, structural engineering and the delivery of feasibility reports on brownfield and greenfield sites.
Frank will head a team of 21 specialists in the construction division of Placefirst, forming a key element of a total workforce of 44.

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Placefirst proudly celebrates another award for its West End One development

Specialist build-to-rent developer Placefirst is proudly celebrating another award for its West End One development at the annual Northern Design Awards ceremony held last week.

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Placefirst launches transformational homes for rent in Leeds

The doors to the first properties available to rent as part of a multi-million pound redevelopment transforming homes in Leeds are being thrown open this week.

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Double Success for Placefirst at the Sunday Times British Homes Awards

Specialist residential rental developer Placefirst is proudly celebrating winning two national awards at the Sunday Times British Homes Awards Ceremony held last week.

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Not Quite Light beautifully captures reinvention of the Welsh Streets, Liverpool

Highlighting the heritage and transformation of hundreds of Victorian terraced properties in Toxteth, Liverpool is at the heart of a photographic project focusing on the Welsh Streets.

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