Modo Bloc is building for the future
North East design-led developer Modo Bloc has just completed one of its more trendy and upmarket projects in Newcastle. We spoke to MD George Jenkins about the company’s growth, regional developments and plans for the future.
Q: How did you start your career in property development?
I was fortunate that when I was a student in Newcastle studying estate management my Dad bought me a house in Jesmond. I lived there, re-mortgaged and used the money to quickly buy another. I then got into the habit of refurbishing and re-mortgaging a few more and it grew from there. I did that for the next eight years and created a portfolio of more than 50 student beds around Newcastle.
Q: How have things expanded and changed over the years?
I moved on from student housing to larger conversions and land developments. A few years ago I purchased a pub in Backworth which I converted into 2 houses and 5 flats. I also built a property in Darras Hall and carried out other conversions. Over the last two years, I have pipelined over £60m worth of developments with Modo Bloc. Some of our future projects are getting larger and more ambitious.
Q: What are you currently working on?
We’ve just broken ground on an exciting 7 townhouse site in Ouseburn Valley, overlooking the River Tyne. I’m currently working on another four sites in Ouseburn which is really exciting. I’ve also got 12 townhouses in Durham in planning. We’re always looking at interesting investment and development options.
Q: Which projects are you most proud of?
We have just finished Chelmsford Lofts, a stylish 8-flat aparthotel in Sandyford, Newcastle. The site was originally three tired flats which we gutted, extended and refurbed into a really fashionable and trendy site, which is already proving popular for weekend staycations. This £1.5m development has taken two years to bring to market but it’s a high-quality, finished product that I am really pleased with.
Q: What are your biggest challenges?
Planning is a constant challenge for any developer. There can be a lot of requirements on a developer and sometimes it can take longer than you anticipate. But when you are granted planning, it is certainly a great feeling and makes the struggle worth it.
In the early years, securing finance and managing cash-flow were problems. That has improved but we’re always looking for private backing to undertake more ambitious opportunities and projects.
Q: Any hiccups or mistakes along the journey?
I bought a pub that was tied to a brewery, which meant I struggled to make a reasonable profit. Although I enjoyed owning my local, as I am sure my friends did too, it proved to be more problematic than it was worth and distracted me from my property development goals. However, I did get a taste for the industry and would revisit this sector in the future if the right opportunity arose.
Q: What are your ambitions for Modo Bloc?
I enjoy navigating the property market through its ups and downs and spotting opportunities where others don’t. I have ambitious growth plans, which involves gradually expanding into other regions of the UK with bigger and more complex developments. Now that I’ve made the move from refurbishments to new builds, I look forward to building more homes and developing more land to increase my pipeline even further.
Q: How do you relax away from work?
I like to travel and have visited lots of different countries. I regularly play squash, have just taken up tennis and do weight training. In the past I did the occasional marathon. All of that is to burn off the effects of my other pastime, enjoying good regional hospitality!