Mactaggart & Mickel Group are celebrating their 90th anniversary this year with a series of events including a revamped website, art school scholarship, charity fundraisers and an updated version of a book celebrating the firm’s history.
The award-winning Group started trading on March 1, 1925 from their base in Glasgow’s Bath Street, focusing primarily on housebuilding. However, the origins of the firm date back much further than that. The founders had been building houses during Queen Victoria’s reign and the Mactaggarts and Mickels initially came together in the early 1900s to construct tenement flats in Glasgow’s West End.
The housing boom which followed the First World War brought terrific opportunities and they constructed over 3000 homes for local authorities in Glasgow and Lanarkshire before registering as a Limited company in 1925 and beginning work on their first contract at King’s Park in Glasgow.
The 1930s marked the start of building at Edinburgh’s Hillpark before the outbreak of World War Two resulted in the firm concentrating most of its work on aiding the war effort.
Normal practice resumed after the war and as the decades went on, the Group built up an enviable reputation as one of the nation’s leading housebuilders, often at the forefront of new initiatives such as the shared equity home purchase.
Current Group chairman Bruce Mickel joined in the mid-1970s as an architect and designed a number of more modern-style developments in Edinburgh including innovative flat-roof designs.
Eight years ago the firm snapped up a timber frame manufacturing base and began developing new housing products and building techniques to deliver modern, energy-efficient homes.
At the height of the recession, Mactaggart & Mickel diversified into a Group of companies, creating new divisions including Timber Systems, Contracts, Commercial Property and Strategic Land to take advantage of new types of building opportunities and income streams.
One of the Group’s proudest moments came in 2011 when it was named alongside CCG, Cruden and WH Malcolm as part of the City Legacy Consortium, tasked with developing the Athletes’ Village for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The project has won more than 20 top awards and received widespread praise from the athletes and officials. Since the end of the Games, the development has been transformed into a thriving residential community which is playing its part in regenerating the city’s East End.
Fourth generation family members and second cousins, Andrew and Ross Mickel, joined the company in 2000 and 2005 respectively, making Mactaggart & Mickel Group one of only three per cent of family-owned businesses that survives into the fourth generation.
Andrew said, “We’ve been through good times and bad times, various wars and recessions. But the Group has always wanted to grow and diversify into different fields. Some of the history is really interesting. In the 1920s you could buy one of our homes for £750 and we’ve been involved in standout projects like Homes for Heroes, building homes for war veterans, and the Milk Bar at the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988.
“We have a quality over quantity approach. We don’t want to build 2000 homes a year. We manage growth. Ross and I are hands on. It’s not about responding to short-term trends. In housebuilding it’s quite easy to forget some of the lessons that just happened.”
Like all major firms in the sector, the 2008 financial crisis had a major impact on Mactaggart & Mickel Group.
“We put our arms around the company as a family and made the best of a bad world,” Ross said. “We moved to a four-day week for under a year and there were some redundancies. Some companies just mothballed entirely. We were able to relocate jobs.”
Securing the Commonwealth Games project in the midst of the recession proved to be a huge shot in the arm for the Group. “It was a real motivator,” Andrew added. “Working as a team with new architects on a large scale, it was certainly challenging and great new designs came out of the project. Onsite it was a great thing to see. It was a very fast learning curve. It was a project where we had a certainty of build as opposed to uncertainty of sales in a slow market. The athletes would be moving in on a set date, the eyes of the world were watching so all the more reason to deliver.
“Then after the Games there was the retrofit.”
The success of Mactaggart & Mickel Group is highlighted by the number of prestigious awards won by the firm over the years including Employer and Housebuilder of the Year.
Andrew and Ross believe the industry is generally in good shape right now, and that Mactaggart & Mickel Group is perfectly placed to take advantage of the upturn.
“It’s exciting times,” Ross said. “I have a good feeling and confidence of the market we’re in.”
“As an industry, we don’t sell it enough,” Andrew commented. “The industry could do more to attract fresh talent by sharing stories and benefits. For example, our current CEO, Ed Monaghan, joined the firm as an apprentice painter. At Mactaggart & Mickel Group we have a successful apprentice programme. We promote from within and develop people.”
One of the most poignant ways the Group is marking the 90th anniversary is by launching a scholarship in conjunction with The Glasgow School of Art, named after the late chairman Derek Mickel, Andrew’s father.
Derek joined in 1960 as an architect and he designed many of the firm’s most significant developments. The scholarship pays tribute to his lifelong connection to design and passion for nurturing young talent. The project involves funding a student through their architectural studies and the Group hopes this will be the start of a lasting legacy for future generations.
With more than a dozen developments across Scotland, the future looks extremely bright for Mactaggart & Mickel Group and with such a strong family ethos, few would bet against another 90 years of success.