WHEN Graeme Bone qualified as a solicitor in 1992 and joined a small practice in Aberdeen, it took him only two weeks to realise that the world of law was not for him – but it the took him seven years to change his working way of life.
He had started dealing in small residential property projects and, as he puts it, he was riding two horses for those seven years.
Then he went full-time on property – "I realised my dream" – and he now has a company that has a portfolio worth about 30 million, has a live 50m development programme and at the Scottish property awards in Edinburgh in May his company was voted the Up and Coming Property Business of the Year.
His company, the Drum Property Group, is far from being a one-man show. He formed it in 2005 and two years later hooked up with Paul Doherty, a development surveyor running a successful niche property player in Glasgow, Palisade Properties. It was logical to merge the firms.
The company has offices in Glasgow and Aberdeen and its portfolio comprises retail, residential, office, industrial and leisure throughout Scotland.
Its current projects include Ashton Apartments in Great George Street, Glasgow, the development of a landmark building comprising residential apartments and a Marks & Spencer foodstore; the Thistle Brewery in Alloa, a 60,000 mixed use re- development that provides a natural extension to the town centre; and the conversion of the former House of Fraser store in Aberdeen into a 57-bed ApartHotel. It has two other projects in Aberdeen – including the re-development of a former bank branch in Union Street for a Tesco store – and in Helensburgh and Falkirk.
The Drum duo are unphased about the credit crunch. In fact, says Bone, it is quite an exciting time for the company, which has access to substantial funding – "our own money and banking facilities with the Royal Bank".
Bones continues: "The credit crunch in some ways is clearing the playing field.
"Property cycles run for 16 to 18 years and when we get into the next cycle that will be our time. We have some good stuff on just now.
"As a relatively small company we will always be opportunity-led and will be in a position to capitalise on opportunities.
"When will the market start to recover? It will depend on the banks' attitude to funding, which is starting to improve, but I think the market will bobble along for another year or two. In two years' time I would like to be well placed to be a leading player in the next property cycle."
One identified area of growth is in a small, growing sector of the hotel market – what is called the extended stay market. Drum has experience of this with the ApartHotel it runs in Aberdeen, providing long-term accommodation for workers in the oil and gas sector.
It's a bit like serviced accommodation with knobs on and Bone reckons extended stay will be the next big thing in the hotel sector over the next ten years.
This is why he has already sussed out Norway for the next Drum ApartHotel and visits to other countries with extended stay potential are planned. Bone's business philosophy is simple: be straightforward with people. "We are a fairly transparent organisation. We trust our own judgment and abilities to make things work. There is no major trait or trick."
Bone, 39, is married to Debbie and they have a son Murray, four.
New tenants move into neighbourhood
TWO tenants have been signed up already for the 30 million neighbourhood centre being built at Newton Mearns, which is scheduled for completion in March. First in was Tesco Express, which has taken a 4,000sq ft unit on the planned retail parade. Rent is undisclosed, but it was close to the top asking price of 19.50 a sqft. Second past the post was bookmaker Bet Fred, taking 1,000sqft at around 25. DTZ acted for the landlord, Gleniffer Estates, with Nick Farrell & Co for Tesco and Sutherland Brown for Bet Fred.
GUNN Property Consultants advised a private landlord on the letting of 20 Wilson Street in Glasgow's Merchant City. The unit was let to Wil Wils, a hair and beauty retailer, a ten-year lease at an average rent of 12,000. GPC's Stephen Gunn said: "It's a great time for retailers to be acquiring more space. I have a number of retailer clients looking to expand and as landlords are taking a flexible approach to secure good tenants they are getting good sites."
GLADMAN Developments has secured letting of a total of 15,000sqft of business park office space at its Arnhall Business Park in Aberdeen. Abermed, Annixter, Kongsberg Maritime and RigNet have all agreed leases of between five to 15 years for units ranging from 2,200 to 5,250sq ft. Rents achieved were between 17.50 and 18.50 per sqft. Gladman has also sold a 5,200sqft unit, leased to NCS Survey, to a private investor for 985,000. Ten out of 19 units are now occupied and four have been sold to investors or the occupier. FG Burnett and James Barr advised Gladman and FG Burnett director David MacLeod said: "There is cash out there for the right opportunities."
WOMEN-only gym Curves, a fast-growing franchise that gives a 30-minute intense workout has taken a ten-year lease on the former Beanscene premises in Hamilton Place, Edinburgh, at a stepped-rent starting at 14,500 a year for around 1,900sqft at ground and basement level. Lawyers Davidson Chalmers acted for Curves, with Eric Young the agent. Advisers for the landlord were Culverwell and Anderson Strathern.
LOGAN Oil Tools has taken a ten-year lease on 10,000sq ft at Kintore Business Park in Aberdeen at an annual rent of 125,000. Graham & Sibbald acted for the landlord, Kintore Industrial Service Sites.
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