In conversation with Robbie Kalbraier
As MD of property investment, development and management specialists, Tyneside Group, Robbie Kalbraier has overseen the transformation of some of Newcastle’s coolest accommodation and office space – including Picton Manor and 5-8 St James’ Street. We discovered more about what he thinks makes property so appealing...
How did you get into property management?
I have always been interested in property and property development. It first started from working as a labourer in the holidays and, after being lucky enough to stumble into a few great opportunities, it grew into something bigger.
What is your proudest business achievement?
The recent sale of our development at Picton Manor on Ellison Place, ranks as my proudest achievement to date. The project itself was very complicated right from the outset, and this extended from the first outline design works all the way through to the sale. It was challenging at every step, but it was successful and now, when I stand back and look at the building we created, I am proud of all the effort my team put into it.
What is the most exciting thing about your industry?
I think there are two things that make today’s construction industry exciting. The first is the number of different opportunities that exist within the sector – in this respect, it is unlike any other. From Architect to Bricklayer, or Joiner to Quantity Surveyor, there is a role for everyone no matter what skill set they have - and every role is required in order to create a successful finished product.
The second thing is the way the general public’s opinion of construction is changing. It has long been the case that qualifications and skills are required for all site workers, no matter what their job is – however, this hasn’t always been well known. In order to walk onto site today and operate any tools or machinery, you need to have passed a number of different tests and hold a variety of different tickets. Working in construction is not straight forward, it requires a lot of knowledge, skills and experience. I think it is a credit to the skills of all those working within the industry that it is becoming recognised in the high regard it deserves.
How has the industry evolved since you started your career?
The construction industry is always improving as new legislation is implemented, new products are invented, and new techniques are devised. The biggest change that has occurred since I first started in the industry surrounds the on-site safety of all trades people, and the future health implications of working in the industry. We now know how people can be affected in later life by both incorrect manual handing practices and the regular inhalation of dust. Simple training and the provision of the correct equipment can mitigate the risks of these two examples entirely.
With the resources and knowledge that we have in this country, I believe workers’ welfare should continue to be paramount within the industry. There is no reason why the personal wellbeing of a site worker should be any more at risk than someone who works in a modern office building.
What is the best piece of business advice you have ever been given?
It is your people that are more important than anything else. If you want to deliver a quality product, whatever industry you are in, you cannot do it alone. You need to have a team of great people working together to allow you to make it.
How do you like to unwind?
I love being outside in the fresh air walking the dog - both the Lake District and the West Coast of Scotland are favourite places of mine, so stick me on a hillside anywhere in that region and I’ll be happy!
What is your favourite piece of architecture in the North East?
We are incredibly lucky in Newcastle that there are so many beautiful buildings from many different periods and in every conceivable style. I don’t have a specific building that is my favourite, but I do love spotting details that aren’t obvious at first glance. You can walk down a beautiful street and miss so much if you don’t look up – there’s so much going on above street level and people pass by every day and often don’t see it at all. Particularly when it comes to historic buildings, I think it is the roofs and all associated features that are often the most attractive parts!
What does the next 12 months look like for Tyneside Group?
Well that’s a good question, we have some exciting projects on the go at the moment and they are all at various different stages, so it’s going to be a busy time. Watch this space!