RiverTribe Editor Linda Duberley meets a developer with a difference; a man who looks at both the micro and the macro.
Robert Skiba is a very surprising builder.
His attention to detail is second to none and his passion for precision is one of the key reasons why the former 18th century coffee house at 17, The Green has progressed despite the considerable challenges of restoring such an important local icon.
The landmark building is undergoing an extensive reconstruction from its basement up three stories to the roof. No tile or brick has been left unturned.
Skiba’s company, Roscar Developments, is carrying out the work which has so far revealed – among many other things – the largest fragment of hand-painted Georgian wallpaper in the UK, fascinating local newspapers from the 1950s and a holiday postcard from Worthing dated July,1920.
All of which appeals to Rob’s fine eye for detail. That’s where the surprise comes in because Rob didn’t start accumulating his professional skills in the construction sector, he began his training as a fine-jeweller.
It is indeed an interesting background for someone so clearly at home on a building site. But it is precisely that provenance that gives Rob Skiba an outlook that is as valued by his team as it is by his clients.
His story began a long time ago in the Careers Office at the Grammar School where he was a pupil. At random he found some information on jewellery design. He was diligent, dextrous and thought he would give it ago. The fact that he had neither Art ‘O’ Level or Art ‘A’ Level apparently didn’t not deter him in the slightest. Indeed, while we are using some alliteration, let’s use another ‘D’. He’s also very determined.
He graduated from Clarendon College in Nottingham with an ‘A’ and then graduated from University of Birmingham with a BA in Fine Arts. He financed his studies by working with Wimpey in the long vacation where he picked up the range of skills required to be a builder. He started buying and selling houses. He turned out some stunning and intricate jewellery – after all he was located right next to Birmingham’s famed jewellery quarter – but he remained in the construction business.
Skiba built dozens of homes and commercial properties all over the UK and from that base went on to set up Roscar Developments seven years ago.
His company undertakes a whole range of projects from loft conversions, basements and extensions in private homes to specialised projects in local authority properties. He also offers a full internal maintenance service. Skiba is a man who likes to keep busy.
“I don’t like to standstill,” he says by way of background. “I love what I do. I love the detail and I love looking at the over-arching view. I like leading teams and enjoy seeing the project come to fruition – whatever size or type it is.
“I take a look at the brief. There is a sharp intake of breath. Then I get on with it. I have a deep knowledge of the sector, I understand logistics, I make sure I understand the client. Clients can get very nervous of builders but they trust that I can deliver their dreams, however ambitious they are.
“I don’t find much daunting – either fine detail or large-scale constructions. It is about solid, self-assurance, expertise and organised planning.”
Skiba has completely renovated private homes in Richmond, Battersea and Wimbledon. He has worked closely with the London Borough of Wandsworth Council. It would be fair to say nothing phases him.
Even 17, The Green has stayed remarkably close to the work schedule despite enormous challenges. The basement had to be converted from the ramshackle storage space it provided for Boots the Chemist on George Street, the roof had to be completely replaced and working with Georgian timbers – originally from sailing ships – was testing. But it is coming together and anyone who walked around the site at the beginning of 2018 would be amazed to see it now.
“It is such a privilege to work on this building. It will be an iconic residence and add to the historic resonance of Richmond Green. Every day brings a new development. Sometimes it is a challenge and sometimes it is a joy, but that is what keep me going. I love the excitement of looking forward – both on the completion of this project and to the beginning of others.”