“Rules, rules, rules. I’ve never been terribly good with rules.” ~ Jethro East
REMI.C.T Studio is working with a fusion of design and development, and understanding the market as a laboratory. In conversation with Jethro East, an East End London property developer, we speak about his exceptional career changes, how critical creativity is within the world of development and the value in taking on challenges, no matter how problematic.
Prior setting up Fairstone Property in 2015, Jethro was a successful DJ and trained as a pilot, but he clarifies that “it was a long time ago, and it was a tiny plane”. He expands, “it was fun for a while, but definitely not the right career for me. It’s just rules, rules, rules, rules… I’ve never been terribly good with rules.”
So what inspired the DJ turned pilot to make the move into the world of property development?
“I was looking for a new career, and I decided that I needed to run my own company. I spent quite a while looking at different things, so it wasn’t instantly that I knew property was the thing. But I knew I wanted to do something creative. I was living in Hackney Wick at the time. No. 90, The Yard; they have a restaurant, and then they have music studios and office space above that. And I went and saw that and thought, well this is really fun, maybe I can do something with studios. So, get a big space, chop it up into studios and then rent them out- because I understand what people like me need. I have rented studios in a place like that many times.”
Jethro’s ideas surrounding studio spaces in the area led him to look into shipping containers, warehouses at a time when the development in Hackney Wick wasn’t in full swing.
“So I thought, perfect, I’ll just borrow a bit of space from someone, and every time I started calling around people are like, maybe you could have it for a year or two years maximum, but it’s going to be developed. The business plan really didn’t work over just two years. But, I realised that I really enjoyed that process and that was my route in.”
The first property Jethro bought, however, didn’t pan out to be his first turnover, in fact after a series of events the developer managed to purchase a second property which would become his first completed project. He described this development as “quite a simple, kind of ‘vanilla style’ refurb. We removed one chimney breast but other than that we didn’t do any other kind of structural work.”
What do you believe your role to be within the current London community?
“I suppose its just that there are a lot of opportunities around here, there are sort of scrappy bits of land that we can work with. We obviously can’t compete with the big guys, but scrappy bits of backland stuff where you’ve got to be a little bit more creative and work with creative architects, and I think that’s really exciting and really fun. So really I’m just trying to be a good developer, and to build good quality housing that people need.
I want to make good places for people to live. I want to be able to be proud of what I’ve done. Its a sense of achievement quite similarly weirdly to when you create a piece of music.”
How do you believe architects and developers should work together?
“Closely. I think, find an architect who shares your vision, your ethics, and your values and is the right size for you and the right fit and then work together. There are lots of ways that developers and architects can help each other. I’m really interested in the design process so I would never just go ‘design me something I don’t care what it looks like, I’m just out to make money’. I quite like integrating the processes rather than keeping them as two separate things.”
With infill sites, what is your fear as a developer?
“Well they’re tricky, they’re really tricky. They’re never just a big block of square land that you can just go [gestures up]. There are lots of issues when you’re working with scrappy sites and so you have to be creative and I think that’s a challenge. and I enjoy that challenge.”