Me and my project: Winvic’s attention to retail

1 October 2019 | By Richard Black, Winvic

Retail and restaurant options at Rushden Lakes

Winvic delivered complex design, civil, infrastructure, build, landscaping and fit-out works at Rushden Lakes retail and leisure destination. Project manager Richard Black tells us what he learned

It’s hard to fully explain the enormity of my role as project manager on this three-phase, three-year project for LXB Retail Properties and The Crown Estate, but if I tell you the completed Rushden Lakes comprises 48 retail units, totalling 450,000 sq ft (41,800 sq m), across four terraces, that’s a start.

In addition, the majority of the retail brands – plus five leisure providers and around 20 restaurants and cafes – used specialist fit-out contractors, fluent in delivering their brand visions. This meant the lines of communication could never fail, the timeline of staggered fit-out handovers had to be perfect and base element variations had to be planned a long time in advance to fully meet each retailer’s intricate designs.

“The eight-storey cinema was really something. I remember installing over 100 sets of precast stairs only too well”

Richard Black, Winvic

My team had to get into a retail mindset and work closely with the retailers to understand every requirement. Glazing, cladding, escalators, digital screens and future mezzanine installation requirements all affected how we worked before a single piece of steel was erected, and we executed over 400 end-user variations in the first phase alone.

The programming was therefore atypical from start to finish: sequencing had to harmonise with upcoming activity, to allow trade progression and effect sectional completions. A sectional goal approach gives you focus – from design to procurement – and regular achievements boost everybody’s drive, especially on a project like this when the finish line can sometimes feel far away.

Successfully liaising with circa 70 fit-out contractors and working safely in a live retail environment are things I’m very proud of. I can honestly say we truly worked as one team and always worked things out to resolution collectively.

I’ve not worked on a single project for such a length of time and I’d love to look after another huge scheme. I seized every opportunity to learn how other contractors work and share knowledge.

Another highlight was visiting each retail unit once completed. To see all the branding, products and customers, and to hear that the stores were trading well was really rewarding, and the eight-storey cinema really was something. I remember installing over 100 sets of precast stairs only too well!

I particularly enjoyed the interaction we had with The Wildlife Trust to find solutions to environmental challenges. The 200 acres (81ha) of Nene Wetland is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and to marry this hive of nature with a retail and leisure scheme using a 1.5km nature trail and visitor centre is unique. It has been great to hear comments from visitors.

An exceptional built and natural environment, an unusually large number of key stakeholders and a complex programme with many variations – a PM couldn’t ask for a better project.

The waterside development in a Site of Special Scientific Interest

Rushden Lakes by numbers

Phase one

Phase two

Phase three

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