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Business people of Preston series: Marie Percival, Preston City Council

26 April 2024

Continuing with our profile piece series, showcasing people that are helping to transform Preston City, as well as getting to know some of the faces and voices behind Preston's thriving business community. Introducing Preston City Council's Marie Percival.

What is your role within Preston City Council?

I'm the Head of Property at the Council, having come to the Council in October 2022 at a time of great change for the city. As a team, we manage the Council's investment portfolio throughout the city, together with supporting colleagues in the Council with the delivery of other high-profile regeneration projects, most notably Animate, Youth Zone and Amounderness House.

I've previously worked at five other Councils, predominantly in the south, leading on development and joint ventures, latterly at the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead where I completed the £500m Joint Venture with Countryside the Friday before starting my new role at Fylde Borough Council, while managing a house relocation from Wiltshire at the same time! 

Coming to Preston with my development background meant I was able to run with the projects, whilst restructuring and seeking chartered surveyors to form a permanent team. Juggling work priorities and challenges is something I'm very much used  to - I'm even coordinating everything for my wedding in September, outside of work.

What are your key roles and responsibilities in relation to the regeneration of Preston? 

I have a number of roles working within a property team, as you can imagine. My principal role in relation to the Harris Quarter, is to facilitate the end game envisaged by colleagues in the regeneration team; to ensure the delivery of new and renovated premises are constructed to align with end-user expectations and existing pre-lets with future occupiers. In practice, this means agreeing a vast array of legal documents, attending contractor progress meetings and working alongside marketing agents to ensure the right mix and calibre of occupier. 

How do you see Preston City centre's future, in terms of regeneration of the cultural and leisure infrastructure offer?

Having lived and worked in many towns and cities, I've seen first-hand how both public and private sector investment acts as a catalyst to further investment. We are already seeing signs of the private sector exploring opportunities in the vicinity of the Harris Quarter, and this is what creates the well-known ripple effect. Over the course of the next 18-24 months, I would anticipate a significant surge in interest in properties within the immediate area, following access routes between the University and Preston Train Station up to the new food and leisure offer to be found in the Animate scheme. 

With parking reinstated in the area upon the opening of Animate, I anticipate the Market will be more accessible, with the quality produce and variety to be showcased to a wider audience as footfall increases. The covered market will increasingly be used an outside entertainment space enabling local bands to entertain residents and visitors in the heart of the city. 

Animate itself will provide five new restaurants to the city, including Loungers, Zizi, Cosmo and Las Iguanas, supplemented with a food hall for concessions - most if not all, will be local, rising talent in the food industry. And with a city centre eight-screen cinema, bowling alley and space for a leisure and social operator, it means that there will be something for everybody to enjoy. 

The restoration of the listed Amounderness House on the corner of Earl Street and Lancaster Road for occupation by a flexible workspace tenant in 2026, will further add to the overall attractiveness and rebirth of this part of the Quarter. And for the youngsters of the city, a new Youth Zone to provide a safe place to meet and play, including football on the roof of the new premises adjacent to the Guildhall and Bus Station. Work commences on its construction in May of this year. 

Overall, I see the investment as a renaissance for Preston, cementing its place as the third largest city in the North West. Interest in the city is broad and wide as new investors leave the over-heated and crowded Manchester market and see what Preston can, and will be, in the coming decade.

The Harris Quarter Towns Fund Investment Programme funding is contributing to several regeneration projects in the city centre. Which one are you most looking forward to and why?

That's an easy one for me as I love food and a good film, so it has to be Animate! I am very much looking forward to its opening early in 2025 and I know that it will be a huge success with the quality of the design and construction being of the highest standard, setting a new bar to what Preston stands for in terms of development.

Also, as a newcomer to the city, I am particularly looking forward to the unveiling of the Harris Museum and Art Gallery as I've never seen it - it's been wrapped up in all the time I've worked at the Council and obviously closed whilst the major restoration and refurbishment of the interior is ongoing.

More business people of Preston

To read more people profiles in this series see business people of Preston.