Topic: Facility Planning
Author: Paul Hay – Managing Partner, PAUL HAY Capital Projects
As I pondered upon my next blog post, I realized that I had not dealt with a fundamental question: whether to build, or not to build. The first two posts dealt with the issue of image: the first warns about improper motives to build, and the second on creating an image that suits your business. But, do you really need to build at all? That is the question.
As has become customary, two cases are presented; one good, and one bad. Both preceed the turn of the century: a very trying time in Jamaica. In his book Jamaica Meltdown: Indigeneous Financial Sector Crash 1996, Wilbern Persaud stated that “Jamaica’s indigeneous financial sector crash was, to date, … estimated by the World Bank review of forty-two banking crises to be third”. Our first blog post, “Consider Image Carefully – Strategic Facility Planning for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses”, described one failed financial entity as an example of poor strategic facility planning. In this post, we examine one of its subsidiaries, a banking group, as a good example in deciding not to build.
But we shall start with a case from Persaud’s book, another banking group, as the poor example which decided to build. As Persaud states: “… at the height of the euphoric credit and real estate boom” this group “embarked on construction of a set of luxury apartments“ in an upscale community billed as “Kingston’s soon-to-be most prestigious address”. The venture generated much interest, but the boom and accompanying inflation led to ever escalating costs. To salvage the project, it was redesigned to become a hotel: thus taking advantage of the government’s tax incentive to the tourism sector, at the time. As a business-type hotel, the venture was doomed to failure: it was too far from Kingston’s business district, too far from other facilities associated with the tourist trade, and in a local plagued with traffic congestion. So after a relatively short period, the hotel did fail and was subsequently converted to apartments, under different owners.
By comparison, our other banking group owned a multistory building that was originally designed and constructed as apartments but later converted to government offices: though little refurbishing works seem to have been done. This group also considered converting their building to a hotel. But, it had all the advantages the former lacked. It was in the heart of Kingston’s business district, between three successful hotels. It was anticipated that at the very least the hotel could take referrals from the adjacent hotels. So, a feasibility study was commissioned.
The consultants of the parent company were commissioned to undertake this feasibility study. It was fortuitous that the same consultants had also been responsible for the construction of the building they were to examine. After careful study of the cost for the conversion, against demolition and rebuilding the building, the banking group wisely decided to sell it. It was sold to another established hotel also located in the area, though some distance from the site. They were the ones to refurbish the building. They sold their original premises and relocated to this new location and continue to operate from the location today.
The building was not in the core competence of the banking group. It was in the core competence of its new owners. It is not certain whether the new owners did any studies of their own, but the bank would have pitched it to them as being appropriate for a hotel. Whenever a building project is contemplated, this should always be considered as any other investment: the options need to be considered, evaluated, and compared to determine the likely outcomes. If this banking group can be criticized on any aspect of the sale, it would be that they failed to consider what could have happened when the hotel relocated. The original hotel was located opposite one of the bank’s major branches. When they relocated, a major competitor bought the land, demolished the hotel, and constructed a new facility on the site. This competitor was previously engaged in putting up a new branch in the resort city of Montego Bay, but when the opportunity presented itself, they suspended the design of that building and seemed to have concentrated their effort on this new venture. Who could have envisioned such a scenario?