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  • Writer's pictureJess Dialdas

Jess' story!

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the dynamics of places- how they evolve and change over time and how they interact with the various people and communities that inhibit and use them. I made the decision to pursue a career in property and urban planning because it directly impacts how we live our lives and what the quality of those lives are. For me, working in property is just as much about the people as it is about the buildings. I find the greatest satisfaction in projects when I am collaborating and working alongside people with a range of backgrounds, experiences and professions.

My career pre-Stories has spanned commercial surveying at CBRE and CBRE Global Investors, economic development consultancy at Hatch Regeneris and most recently in the public sector in the Strategic Development and Infrastructure team at Homes England. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work across the planning and development stages of some of the largest and most challenging regeneration schemes in the country. Through these roles I have gained an expertise in developing and appraising business cases to unlock funding for major funding programmes including the Housing Infrastructure Fund, the Future High Street Fund and the Town’s Fund. I have worked on masterplans, economic strategies and delivery advice for areas such as the Olympic Park, HS2 and the Brighton City Region. I have also worked with developers including the Crown Estate and Argent to develop broader approaches to assessing property value, social impact and regeneration.

Whilst I’m grateful for the projects and people I have got to work with to date, I have frustrations with how property is approached and understood across the industry, particularly around taking short term views on decisions that impact people for generations to come. I believe taking a long-term perspective on projects is crucial to ensure that developments are designed inclusively, sustainably and fundamentally to making sure that they benefit and integrate with the wider area in which they are situated.

I find traveling and exploring new places and cities the most inspiring way to understand how we can do things differently. This encouraged me to take a 6-month sabbatical with my husband to travel across Latin America and Asia. My favourite city that I travelled to is Kathmandu in Nepal, where amidst the chaos and bustle I discovered a colourful, cultural melting pot which defied all my expectations. From Kathmandu we completed an incredible two-week trek across the Annapurna region. This was in March 2020 and throughout the trek I was without phone signal and completely unaware of the rapidly unfolding events of the pandemic. What followed was more than a slightly stressful journey to get one of the last planes out of Kathmandu airport, and a seismic shift on making it back to London and being stuck within the confines of home for months.

Whilst my lockdown experience was far more bearable than most, it – together with my love for exploring cities and new cultures on my travels - forced me to reflect further on my own motivations and values. I completed an online Harvard University course on the psychology of wellbeing – this was fascinating to do in a time when the impact that our homes and local neighbourhoods had on our happiness was starker than ever. So many of the elements raised in the course that have a direct impact on our wellbeing (connection to nature, informal interactions, feeling safe) are directly influenced by the buildings we inhabit and interact with. It reaffirmed my motivation to work on projects which embed people and the planet’s wellbeing, and do not fit with a preconceived notion of what a place or city ‘should’ be.

There are exciting changes starting to happen across the industry, and I believe it is agile, creative organisations that are driving that change. From my first meeting with Paul and James I found Stories to be an organisation that is genuinely approaching development and property differently. I had been following Stories for some time and am delighted to join the team and an organisation which reflects my own values and desire for property development to make better places for all.

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