One strategic project can quickly change perceptions of a district and city, which is exactly what's happened with the MediaCityUK development in the Salford Quays area of Manchester.
A hi-tech complex used by the BBC and other top broadcasters has brought with it a new sense of pride and purpose. And that in turn is creating jobs and commercial opportunities, better transport links, a diverse cultural landscape, and significant investment in the residential property sector.
'Manchester has become England's second city and is cheap when compared to London,' says Louise Emmott, senior surveyor for Jones Lang LaSalle, which is marketing apartments in TheHeart and NumberOne, two new high-rise towers within the MediaCityUK hub. 'Work is complete and the apartments are ready for moving in,' Emmott says.
A range of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units is available, with a choice of aspects and configurations. All include design features and facilities that show a genuine commitment to making this a sustainable development - with the official certification to prove it - while also providing easy access to the latest communications technology.
For example, residents will have one of the fastest domestic broadband services in the United Kingdom. This makes it easy to work from home or, with the use of a 100 MB 'blast' button, to upload and download files with special graphics, movies and music in a matter of seconds.
With the advanced MediaCityUK exchange portal, it is possible to customise a range of broadband options, enjoy low-tariff international calls, and receive digital services, including HD internet protocol TV and all the usual satellite channels.
At its heart, the development features a large piazza and extensive gardens, which may be used for outdoor filming and broadcast-related events. It also has quiet waterside walks and its own distinctive sense of community, with an ever-evolving selection of bars, restaurants, shops and entertainments in the immediate neighbourhood.
'Any move or investment in property is a big decision, so we want owners and residents to feel well-informed, comfortable and secure,' Emmott says. 'Over the long term, we will help to maintain the apartments and make sure the external environment is always well looked after.'
Looking at interiors, the kitchens all have a high-gloss modern design. There are Zanussi stainless steel appliances along with an electric hob, oven and extractor hood. Installed as standard are an integrated fridge/freezer, a dishwasher and a laundry cupboard with washer/dryer.
The bathrooms and en suites feature contemporary ceramic tiling on the floor and walls, chrome taps and white sanitaryware. Elsewhere, the detail and finish of each apartment adds a note of style and luxury. Flooring in the hallways and main living rooms is walnut laminate, while the 'infrastructure' includes high-speed fibre connections, sprinkler system and full-colour visual door-entry system.
'We have made a huge commitment in developing the first phase of MediaCityUK and have every intention of ensuring it is one of the best places in the United Kingdom to live, work and play,' says John Whittaker, development director of Peel Group, one of Britain's largest privately-held property and transport companies. 'A dedicated estate office will make it easy for all residents and commercial tenants to communicate with the site managers and security personnel, if they have any concerns or wishes.'
As part of that, the management company has developed a website for all residents and apartment owners from which they can access information about their building and available services 24 hours a day. This also serves as a virtual interactive notice board for sharing ideas or observations, and has a function to book apartment cleaning and key holding services.
With more corporate employees set to move to the area, Emmott predicts a good outlook for both capital appreciation and rental returns. Over the past two years average rental values nearby have increased steadily and, as a special offer, Hong Kong-based buyers in the current sales phase have the chance to secure a 6 per cent rental guarantee.
'We anticipate high occupancy levels,' Emmott says. 'If necessary, we can provide contact details for various brokers to assist with mortgage arrangements, and we also work closely with the Bank of China which has various products for overseas buyers.'