Here we meet James Wall, who joined Workman in May 2023 as General Manager with responsibility for St Christopher’s Place, in the heart of London’s West End. A mixed-use estate, with over 150 occupiers – comprising retail, food & beverage, offices, and residential that Workman manage on behalf of Columbia Threadneedle Investments (CTI).
What three words describe Workman?
Dedicated, specialists, supportive.
How are you putting your skills to their best use at Workman?
Workman was instructed to provide property management services for St Christopher’s Place on 1 December 2022, and upon my arrival in May 2023, I had to hit the ground running as it is a complex estate. We have undertaken a number of projects, such as reviewing 41 service charges and their set up, as well as the marketing budget and strategy, together with a full review of health and safety reporting, which included crossover with residential agents.
I have an ability to quickly understand the issues or problems, take ownership for them and then get things done and take action. As such, we have achieved a lot in a relatively short timeframe.
Tell us about your role, and why this is important to the firm and its clients?
My role is to lead and direct the management team to ensure the commercial profitability and performance of St Christopher’s Place by practical delivery of CTI’s asset objectives.
I achieve this via effective management of the site and operational team, with the aim for the estate to reflect the best standards of customer satisfaction, compliance, and operational efficiency.
How do you hope to develop your role in the coming months and years?
To contribute to asset enhancement initiatives across the estate by working closely with the CTI Asset Manager. We are on a roadmap to consistently evolve the occupier mix to maximise the financial return.
This has included supporting and facilitating enquiries from occupiers, providing data and expert opinion, which will continue to help with leasing strategies, as well as rent reviews in the future.
What has been your standout moment at Workman so far?
There have been a few in the time that I have been here. Overall, it is getting positive feedback from the occupiers, client, contractors, and other stakeholders as they understand the positive impact that myself, the onsite team, and Workman are delivering since Workman began managing the estate in December 2022.
This is a challenging estate to operate, which is now very much performing under the ‘Workman Way’ and it is good to get recognition of the improvements we have made.
What change would you make to the wider property sector? And why?
In relation to the retail & leisure sector, it’s important that landlords, councils, and BIDs are working together to adapt to the change of use within our town centres, estates and within shopping centres, to invest collaboratively for communities. There are some good case studies, but I believe there is more opportunity to work together.
We are involved with The Oxford Street Programme, which is great example where the current proposal is very much about evolution not revolution – such as widening pedestrian walkways and introducing improved landscaping.
This is a 50/50 joint venture (JV) with Westminster City Council and the landlords/landowners, and it is being managed by the New West End Company (NWEC) BID. Each stakeholder has a voice, can have an input in what they want from the JV and has a duty of care to ensure we are making discussions that will have a lasting impact on one of the worlds’ best high streets. The area covered by the BID is shown below:
What first led you into the property industry?
Having spent most of my career working in the retail sector, in 2019 I moved into the property industry as several of my former colleagues had made the change.
I am still very much abreast of what is happening in the retail, F&B sector owing to the feedback from the occupiers, but having the opportunity to shape the future for shopping centres and estates like St Christopher’s Place is really rewarding.
Even more so, following the impact of Covid-19 and seeing how the landscape has changed for all the visitors to the estate and how people are using it differently. It is our responsibility to make positive changes collectively by staying relevant and making the estate welcoming and engaging.
What are your spare time pursuits and how do they feed into your role at Workman?
I am keen motorsport enthusiast, and in 2021 obtained my racing licence, which has given me the opportunity to race around the UK, and in Belgium at Spa Francorchamps.
There are several skills required for racing drivers – confidence, decisiveness, observance, reactiveness, patience, consistency, ability to take risks, which are all attributes that are transferable into the working environment.
I believe having the experience on track has certainly given me the courage to tackle tasks where I am operating outside of my comfort zone.
What is your favourite building worldwide, and why?
I am going to pick the National History Museum for a few reasons.
I remember visiting it as a child with my family and being amazed by ‘Hope’ the blue whale suspended from the ceiling. I have since visited the museum as a parent myself and enjoyed interacting in the displays and galleries with my children.
Architecturally, I find the building fascinating and the effort that Alfred Waterhouse went to create his ‘cathedral to nature’ is extraordinary.
Today, to work with a firm that sponsors the Natural History Museum’s Urban Nature Project as part of its Building Biodiversity drive is incredibly inspiring, and makes me think more about how nature can be incorporated into urban environments like St Christopher’s Place.
What podcast do you recommend?
On my daily commute I enjoy listening to a few podcasts to kickstart my day or unwind on the way home.
My favourite one is ‘Smith & Sniff’, which I often find myself laughing out loud when listening to it. TV presenter Jonny Smith and Sniff Petrol creator Richard Porter are two friends who talk about cars, and many other things.