Rapid impact with a string of prime city centre acquisitions

Vision Express

Some trading names vanish and others emerge during recessions and Manchester’s property market is getting used to seeing Vision Developments on the buyers’ side of the table.

In April, in partnership with Les Lang’s Infinity, the company completed the £6m purchase and leaseback of 53 King Street. The building, which had been owned by Lloyds bank for more than a century, is one of the most architecturally notable in central Manchester.

Vision has been capitalising on the weak market to gather an investment and development portfolio in prime city centre sites.

The firm was founded 12 months ago by former Ask Developments director Stephen Cliff and Irish investor Morgan Leahy. Although the charismatic Leahy, who made his money in Limerick’s haulage industry, is well known on the Manchester property circuit, the public face of the business is Cliff’s.

‘We’re looking at investment opportunities with two or three years’ income and with redevelopment angles in the future,’ he says, standing in the grade II-listed Barton Arcade in Deansgate that Leahy bought in 2007.

It was in 2005 that Cliff first worked with Leahy, who had just bought the Bauhaus office, hotel and residential block in Quay Street from Ask for around £15m. In 2007, Leahy sold Bauhaus for a £7m profit to Blackrock, formerly Merrill Lynch Investment Managers.

In the same year, Leahy paid £17m for Barton Arcade and £12.7m for the adjacent Lancaster Buildings, both comprising shops below offices, and both now part of the Vision portfolio. Leahy also agreed a £2m sale of the Lancaster Buildings’ office element to Maple Grove.

‘It is a cliche, but we are bucking the trend at the moment,’ says Cliff. ‘We said to ourselves 12 months ago that it is going to be a good time to buy property. We got together and started finding out what opportunities there were.’

via Property Week
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