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Bringing people and places together - how can it be done in the new normal?

Roy Ledgister, founder and chief executive of the Convivia Group, is both a barrister and an entrepreneur. Originally qualifying as a solicitor and transferring to the Bar early on in his career, he has advised or acted on behalf of celebrities, political groups and multi-billion dollar international groups and their presidents. 

He joined the Caridon Group in 2014, writing the business plan which led to multi-million pound investment from private equity, and the creation of Caridon Holdings - which has developed more than 700 apartments with many hundreds under development. He remains as Group Chairman, a director and shareholder of Caridon Holdings LLP, but branched out on his own in January 2017 to found the Convivia Group of companies. 

Here, he discusses his company's long-term plans, investing in apart-hotels, creating 'social developments' and how he got into property in the first place. 

First off, could you provide a bit more background about CC's Property Investment Bond? What does it entail?

Convivia Capital Management, the fundraising and investment arm of property development firm, Convivia, has recently launched a new investment vehicle that enables high-net worth and sophisticated investors to place a minimum investment of £2,000 into an asset-backed, three-year fixed interest bond, with annual returns of 6%.

What are Convivia's long-term plans? Have these changed because of Covid?

Long-term, Convivia aims to establish an inspirational property and brand portfolio that delivers true innovation in both the public and private sectors. This vision hasn’t changed as a result of Covid-19, but our immediate plans have adapted slightly in that the locations that we were previously looking to acquire buildings and commence construction, have altered.

Interestingly, however, our apart-hotel development in Torquay couldn’t be in a better location, not only because of where it is positioned within the town, but because of the vast increase in demand for staycations, which I believe will continue during 2021 and beyond.

Do you think apart-hotels will become more popular post-pandemic? How can they be made Covid-safe to reassure visitors?

Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, we had already seen exponential growth in the use of apart-hotels as a result of Airbnb, whether used for business or leisure.

Covid-19 will only feed this growing trend, as both individuals, friends and families are more likely to opt for accommodation that feels more secure, whilst eliminating concern over social distancing, contaminated public touchpoints or potentially staying in close proximity to an individual carrying the virus.

As we are in the early stages of development, we will be able to factor in social distancing requirements within our communal spaces as part of the interior design, so that it looks organic and aesthetically pleasing; assuring guests whilst enabling them to have fun and enjoy their stay.

How does an apart-hotel actually work from an investment perspective?

Apart-hotels offer a valuable investment opportunity and ensure our network of High Net Worth and Sophisticated investors feel assured that their investment is asset-backed, whilst enabling them to benefit from the growing demand for apart-hotels both across the UK and worldwide.

You've talked about creating social developments - can you explain what this means? Does this mean affordable housing schemes or community spaces?

I believe it should mean both of these things. Convivia is focused on innovative thinking, creating community and having fun. This means we need to make luxury accommodation accessible to all.

Individuals and families, in particular, shouldn’t just have to survive in social housing, they too should have the opportunity to really live and enjoy accommodation, which also provides a greater opportunity to build friendships and to support educational needs. They shouldn’t just have to exist in sub-standard conditions.

To challenge this, Convivia has established a unique procurement model that enables us to create social developments where everyone wins, from the housing provider through to the end tenant, which is truly unique in the property investment and development industry.

What made you pick Torquay, one of the less heralded seaside towns and best known for its association with Fawlty Towers? Does Torquay have a perception issue? 

When investing in property, it is important to buy and develop in a location where there is real potential and scope for scalability and growth.

Aside from providing the opportunity for greater returns, it also provides the opportunity to build innovative, attractive and ‘go to’ accommodation, which offers something different, alternative and fun for guests.

Despite potential perception, Torquay has always been a desirable location which has also grown in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic as families and groups of friends opted for staycations over holidays abroad. As a result, they will have experienced the positive qualities Torquay has to offer and are likely to recommend and return, increasing tourist footfall for years to come.

How did you get involved in property investment and development in the first place? What have been the challenges and rewards along the way?

I have personally developed properties for many years and have always thoroughly enjoyed the transformation of a run-down site. This experience, combined with my extensive legal background, provided me with the opportunity to undertake advisory work for several large property groups, including the creation of a development plan and raise of £50 million.

Ultimately, when you source and are involved in the right opportunities, property investment and development can be very rewarding, both financially and in personal achievement - however, it certainly doesn’t come without its challenges. The true decipher of success is how you work through and deal with these challenges, which is something I genuinely pride myself on.

You talk about bringing places and people together, and delivering true innovation in the public and private spheres - how can this happen in reality and will it need to look different in the new normal?

When establishing Convivia, the Board and I were clear from the outset that we didn’t want to create just another property investment and development company, but that we wanted to create unique spaces that would challenge conventional thinking and bring people together with a sprinkling of fun, all underpinned by innovative technology that, we believe, will create the new normal.

Covid-19 won’t last forever, but even if it did, both our buildings and our technology can be adapted, without impacting the creation of community and conviviality. No other hospitality establishment offers what we are developing and it’s something we believe will put Convivia on the map within the property development industry, whilst creating a whole new, innovative and luxurious experience for the end user.

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