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July 22nd, 2014 [ No comments ]

Saxton: the balance between outdoor and indoor living

by Anthony Mackle

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It’s great when other people write about our developments, and I was delighted today to see this piece about our Saxton, Leeds development on the Government’s Help to Buy site.

You can read the full article below…

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“Ordinarily, city centre living means replacing a BBQ in the garden for a glass of champagne on the balcony.

However the innovative Saxton development, located in the heart of Leeds, mixes up the balance between outdoor and indoor living.

Developer Urban Splash began building the development in 2005 and now consists of 410 deluxe apartments split into two buildings, Drive and Parade. These are set within 6 acres of meadows, including allotments, orchards and a park for all to enjoy but still just a 5 minute walk from the city centre.

The site offers a wide variety of different apartments to suit everybody’s taste. The thinking behind the building was to work with the original 1950s structure that was there, whilst adding a modern twist by focusing on subtle colour changes in the materials used.

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The 1 and 2 bedroom apartments are built to a high quality finish with features such as engineered wooden floorboards; slate bathroom flooring, luxurious carpets and floor length windows. As well as great interiors the apartments also have ample parking facilities and a large gym where you can book a personal trainer to help burn away those extra calories.

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It is the outdoor space though that makes Saxton such a unique development. The huge gardens include allotments available to rent. So far, homeowners have rented 80 out of the 97 allotments and a keen interest in the gardens is clear to see amongst everyone living there. Near to the development, there are privately owned flats with owners that also enjoy gardening and looking after their environment ensuring that there is a good relationship between the them and the community at Saxton.

When reflecting on the success of the site Anthony Mackle, manager of the development, said: “Urban Splash always look for an exciting building to work with. Saxton is in a great location and has lots of space around it which is unusual for a city centre – allowing allotments and gardens. That was a huge appeal for us and has helped us to create a truly unique development.”

The apartments at Saxton are available to buy through a Shared Ownership scheme, a government funded initiative to help get people on to the property ladder. For the remaining share of the property you will need to pay market rent, determined by the housing association. This means that owning 100% of your apartment is achievable. The scheme would allow you to purchase a share in your home, ranging from 25-75%, with the opportunity to buy additional shares in the future.

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Saxton is now complete and Urban Splash is focusing on their other projects: Lister Mills in Bradford and Park Hill in Sheffield. These are both ambitious developments that will share the same quality finish that has been achieved at Saxton.

There are a lot more people choosing to buy through Shared Ownership in 2014, as it is an easier way for young professionals to be able to buy a first home.

If you are interested in viewing the apartments and grounds at Saxton please contact Anthony Mackle by calling 0333 666 6000 or email live@urbansplash.co.uk”

Filed under: Urban Splash

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What a fantastic day we had yesterday celebrating a decade of Urban Splash involvement at Royal William Yard in Plymouth - an occasion marked by a visit to the site by His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales.

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There were hundreds of people on site to greet the Prince, there was a great atmosphere and the weather was glorious! The Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Cllr Michael Fox gave a speech on the day, and summed up everyone’s sentiments saying “We are delighted to have you here to celebrate the establishment of Britain’s Ocean city 100 years ago. It is a marvellous opportunity to promote Plymouth and the fantastic work which goes on here.” He went on to thank our team and the entire Plymouth community.

Meanwhile, I got the chance to give HRH a full tour of the Yard, allowing us a chance to show him what has changed in the decade we’ve been involved. Thankfully, he liked what he saw and told me it had been: “fascinating to see it come back into use and to see so many people enjoying it.”

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The Prince is a great fan of architectural heritage and has a real passion for saving old buildings; I know he has had a long and serious interest in this collection of buildings – which bears not only his son’s name but also has connections to the royal family as a whole.

It was a pleasure to show him how we have brought the area back to life and to explain our plans for the final two buildings which will bring a five-star hotel and artists’ studios to the scheme. You can read more about what we’ve done at the Yard and what we’ve got planned here.

You can also read what the press had to say about the Royal visit here and listen to my radio interview from the day on BBC Radio Devon.

Filed under: Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash

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Celebrating my LJMU Fellowship

July 15th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Jonathan Falkingham MBE

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Yesterday, I was delighted to be awarded an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.

I received the honour for my contribution to entrepreneurship and regeneration in Merseyside; I suppose with great schemes like Concert Square, Ropewalks and the Matchworks we’ve done alright in this city so far! It was also a great chance for me and my Urban Splash co-founder Tom to take to the stage and share our memories of the fantastic business we’ve created (as well as dressing up - see image above..!).

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Below you can read both our speeches - each of which give you a great insight into our working relationship and the history of Urban Splash.. Enjoy!

Tom on Jonathan…

“Honourable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Jonathan Falkingham MBE for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.

Although I am not an employee of LJMU, I too am also privileged to hold an Honorary Fellowship from this great University and although this is the first time I’ve had the privilege of delivering this Honorary Fellowship citation wearing another hat, Chancellor of University of Manchester I’ve had the honour to give out hundreds of Degrees over the past 5 years.  However, never has it given me so much pleasure as today.

I have known Jonathan for over 25 years, we started up in business together, we have seen the ups and downs of business, seen our kids grow up, have been not only business partners but also the best of friends and we have shared many of life’s highs and lows, not to mention a few drinks!

It’s a great privilege to be here in this great building in this great City and great University.This is a truly civic university, firmly rooted in this extraordinary city, and its defining ethos comprises three deceptively simple yet very powerful words: Dream. Plan. Achieve.

Each year at Graduation,  the University’s highest honour – an Honorary Fellowship - is bestowed on a select band of individuals outside the University, in recognition of their outstanding achievement in a given field or profession, and who personify and inspire others to ‘dream, plan, and achieve.’

rwy_beforeafter1Royal William Yard, Plymouth

Jonathan is a rare breed – a talented and award-winning architect with a fondness for down-at-heel buildings from Britain’s industrial past, coupled with the entrepreneurial spirit and daring to return this heritage to twenty first century use. As co-founder and Creative Director and the clever one of the renowned urban regeneration company Urban Splash, he has been the creative force that has brought beautiful buildings back to life in many of our cities. Iconic buildings including; Fort Dunlop in Birmingham, Plymouth’s Royal William Yard and in Liverpool; The Matchworks, Collegiate, Old Haymarket and many more buildings in Liverpool’s Ropewalks area are all testimony to Jonathan’s vision, who we propose today, in recognition of his services to entrepreneurship and regeneration.

fort_beforeafter2Fort Dunlop, Birmingham

Jonathan left his native Bradford to study architecture at the University of Liverpool, graduating with first class honours. The Liverpool he graduated into in 1981 was not the handsome city we see today. It had endured decades of neglect and was beset by social and economic troubles – in terms of physical infrastructure it was at its lowest ebb and unemployment was rife. Undeterred, Jonathan elected to stay and set up his own architecture practice – Design Shed – with his brother Miles. Fast forward 26 years, and today his graduate start-up has morphed via a merger into the award-winning shedkm, which continues to be as a thriving architectural practice working in Liverpool and London.

In its earliest days, Design Shed was based in the old Liverpool Palace building on the corner of Slater Street, which was my first freehold purchase in what was then a sad and rundown area. Design Shed had helped create the iconic Baa Bar there, whose design and styling helped attract the noteworthy clientele that fed its reputation.

Jonathan and I found that we shared common views around design, the power of branding and the potential for city living to revive city centres. We both thought Liverpool was an exciting city, despite its 1980s shabby image and saw its potential to be like other attractive European cities like Barcelona, Paris and Berlin, where people lived, worked and played in their beautiful historic city-centre buildings.

Jonathan and I co-founded Urban Splash in 1993, literally two men in a rather large shed defying conventional wisdom at that time by taking land and buildings widely considered to be of little value by the property world, either economically or in heritage terms, adding great design, branding and marketing and creating something new and valuable.  In the beginning there was no big plan, no strategy, no idea of what we were to become, just a wholehearted belief in cities, in design, in architecture and a desire to make things better. To make things the way we wanted them to be - different than they were before.

b4_conc11Concert Square, Liverpool

Where property development is about fulfilling a demand, regeneration is about creating it. In the early days we worked with existing buildings that we fell in love with, buildings that had fallen apart and that we made better. Jonathan was the driving force behind our first urban project – Liverpool’s Concert Square, which converted an abandoned warehouse into the north west’s first loft apartments aimed at young professionals, and commercial space that is now home to a wealth of bars, galleries and creative businesses. The first phase of the Ropewalks area, Concert Square received an RIBA Award for Architecture in 1996 and is widely acknowledged as the cornerstone of the subsequent regeneration of this area of Liverpool into the city’s cultural and digital quarter.

matw_beforeafterThe Matchworks, Liverpool

When we ran out of buildings to convert we started to make our own. We made homes, we made offices and we made special spaces in between for people to be and do things that people do – in shops, bars restaurants, parks and even hotels. In the early days we worked with existing buildings that we fell in love with, buildings that had fallen apart and that we made better. We started in Manchester and Liverpool but soon we were being encouraged to do things in other areas: Leeds, Bradford, Plymouth, Bristol, Sheffield, Birmingham, Salford, all great cities that were thirsting for change.

The company enjoyed 15 years of uninterrupted growth and accolades – to date, Urban Splash has received over 350 awards for architecture, regeneration, marketing and enterprise. During this time, Jonathan was awarded national and Northern region Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 1999, 2005 Director of the Year by the Institute of Directors North West and several awards for the redesign and regeneration of his own home in south Liverpool, where with typical aplomb and ambition and eye for a wreck, he successfully married a Grade II listed seventeenth century building with twenty first century materials, technology and design.

However, no business can operate independently of the wider economy. When the 2008 credit crunch bit, it did so very hard and very fast. When Lehman Brothers collapsed and triggered the global banking crisis, Urban Splash had £1bn of projects in the pipeline and £250m of bank debt, we were spending £9m a month on construction costs. We were not, as we initially hoped, insulated from the worst of the fall-out, even with schemes pre-sold for two years ahead. Aspirations had to be checked.

Spending had to be cut. Redundancies had to be made. The business model had to be adapted. With the benefit of hindsight, we had probably grown too fast and it was a very painful, but ultimately salutary lesson.

It has taken five years to return to some semblance of financial stability during which time we have returned to our roots, with plans to revolutionise the new-build housing market and by making good design affordable. Jonathan has faced the most testing of times, personally and professionally over the last few years but has continued to support upcoming young architects as a board member of the Liverpool Architecture and Design Advisory Panel and as a Trustee of the Royal Institute of British Architecture. He has also contributed and continues to contribute to his adopted city as a trustee of National Museums Liverpool and of the Royal Court Theatre. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Most deservedly, he was awarded an MBE in the 2013 Queen’s birthday honours for services to architecture and regeneration.

Thus, it is with great pleasure that I present Jonathan Falkingham, this most distinguished adopted son of our city, for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.”

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Jonathan’s response…

“Thank you Tom – a quite humbling citation. And thank you Pro-Vice Chancellor, Vice Chancellor and the whole of Liverpool John Moores University for conferring this Honorary Fellowship. It truly is a great honour and I feel very privileged to have been involved in the amazing renaissance of this great city – which has transformed beyond recognition in the last 25 years – it really has.

I was thinking about what I could say of relevance to an audience of Business School graduates. I could talk about the importance of design and architecture all day long but I suppose what crossed my mind is that you are all graduating just as it seems as though we are emerging from a severe and protracted recession and this is very similar to when I graduated back in 1988 and in a sense is the back story to the formation Urban Splash.

rope_beforeafterThe Ropewalks, Liverpool

The city was then in the grip of the last recession so jobs for enthusiastic (and I like to think talented!) architecture graduates, like myself, were virtually non-existent and my peers left the city in droves to find work in exotic locations all over the world.

I however decided to stay – partly because I loved the place, loved the architecture, loved the culture the people and the easy way of life but also because the cities economic malaise presented opportunity and in a youthfully idealistic and rather naïve way I believed I could make something of this although what and how I didn’t really know at the time.

So instead embarking on a straight forward career as an architect, which is what I’d always imagined, I found myself having to be very resourceful, using my limited knowledge, skills and experience but my unlimited enthusiasm, creativity, energy, idealism and most of all naivety – all fantastic gifts of youth – ideally suited to imagining and creating new possibilities and new futures.

And that’s what’s interesting about recessions – they are hugely painful for the businesses and individuals that are affected by them (Urban Splash has had its fair share of woes in the last five years) but they also present great opportunities to explore new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things. The old economic rules and systems have by definition fractured and in some cases failed entirely which opens the door for new models and creates lots of space in the market for new ideas.

And young graduates like you are very well placed to take advantage of this. For me, it is also vital that you believe in what you do - at Urban Splash we have a simple mission statement which is “to create great buildings, spaces and communities in which to live, work and play’, but physical regeneration should also be lasting and sustainable and therefore we are also keen to ensure that we create a legacy. One of our favourite quotes, which we use relentlessly is the oath that had to be sworn by any new citizen of ancient Athens – the concluding part of which reads: “we will leave this city not less, but better,  greater and more beautiful than it was left to us”

And, this simply stated aspiration for a better place and a better society applies to all people in all professions and walks of life and is as relevant today as it was when it was recited 2,000 yrs ago. It’s about everyone playing their part and most importantly, being custodians of a civic, civilised and lasting community.

And, if this last recession has taught us anything it is perhaps that the pursuit of money as an object in itself is unsustainable and that for the health of society it is important that there is a purpose to our endeavours that goes well beyond that of mere self interest.

So my advice, as you graduate today, is if you can - do something you really love and something you really believe in, but also be naïve and try to make a difference.

Thank you.”

Filed under: Liverpool, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash

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Announcing two major Urban Splash deals

July 14th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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I wanted to share with you the news of two deals we have completed this week; the first which saw us sell Fort Dunlop in Birmingham to Tristan and the second in which we sold elements of our Manchester residential portfolio to Places for People.

Each deal includes the sale of buildings that we’ve taken from an unloved, disused spaces, before turning them into real icons of regeneration. I am delighted to be able to share these news links outlining the next stage in their existence with you:

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Manchester PRS sale to Places for People

24 Housing

Building Design

North West Business Insider

The Manchester Evening News

The Business Desk

Fort Dunlop sale to Tristan

The Birmingham Post

The Express and Star

Midlands Business Insider

The Business Desk

Filed under: Birmingham, Fort Dunlop, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash

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Plymouth’s book of wonder

July 8th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Nathan Cornish

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I was delighted to read online this week Plymouth’s new ‘Book of Wonder‘, which features 100 facts about Plymouth and some stunning photographs that’ll help people outside the City see what all the fuss is about.

Did you know for example that Plymouth is the greenest city in the UK with 40 per cent of the city green space? Or that Houdini challenged carpenters from Devonport naval base to make a box from which he could not escape. He was nailed inside the box at his show at the Palace Theatre and escaped in 12 minutes! Or that Laurel & Hardy (my childhood favourites) and Charlie Chaplin were just some of the global stars to frequent the City’s Palace Theatre?

The book also tells the story of Plymouth’s thriving businesses and the role some of the industries here have played; for example Kawasaki‘s Plymouth factory supplied the hydraulic motors that were used to bore the Channel Tunnel and Wrigley’s Plymouth factory produces over three million packets of chewing gum… in a day! That’s a lot of chewing!

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Plymouth has provided Urban Splash with a special place that we feel privileged to be part of at the Royal William Yard, a place the book calls a ‘cultural hotspot’. We’ve transformed a disused Naval supplies yard and created a destination that attracts residents and visitors alike. I’m delighted its considered one of the wonders of Plymouth and I’d urge anyone who hasn’t yet been to see why and head on over...

Filed under: Urban Splash

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This week, I was delighted to announce the results of our annual accounts which show a £99m increase in turnover and a return to profit (I wish we could have worked a bit harder to make it to £100m!).  Below you can read the full Chairman’s Statement from the accounts as well as some of the press coverage we’ve received about them in the past few days…

Property Week

The Architects’ Journal

Building Design

Manchester Evening News

Manchester Gazette

BDaily

Liverpool Echo

Birmingham Post

The Business Desk

Plymouth Herald

Yorkshire Post

Full Chairman’s Statement:

Even for an eternal optimist like me, in recent years writing my statement in these accounts has at times been difficult, due the problems suffered by the business as a result of the financial crisis which seemed never ending.  It is therefore very pleasing to say that the last 18 months has been one of the most important in the group’s recent history, and one which has hopefully put the group on a sound platform for future growth as well as finding a solution to the problems associated with the large debt burden which has beset us since the onset of the financial crisis in late 2008.

In July 2013 and after 18 months of hard work with our banks, the Homes and Communities Agency and the team of advisers, we successfully concluded a fundamental restructure and refinance of the group which has addressed the legacy debt position of the group and created a new corporate structure enabling the business to grow, start new development projects and form new joint venture relationships which we believe will be key to the future success of the business.

At the same time we completed the sale of £77.7 million of residential property to Places for People retaining the ongoing management of the portfolio. This enabled the group to repay the majority of its facilities with the Homes and Communities Agency and a substantial amount of bilateral bank facilities. This sale was the start of a long term successful partnership with Places for People, one of the country’s biggest property management, development and regeneration companies. In February this year, we established a joint venture with Places for People to develop property across the UK. We are delighted that our first project together, the construction of 182 apartments in the second phase of Park Hill, Sheffield is currently on site with other schemes hopefully starting in the near future.

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The restructure in the summer of 2013 did not at the time address our remaining legacy debt facilities, our syndicated £113m commercial property loan. The final piece of the restructuring jigsaw was put into place when in April of this year, we cancelled our swap arrangements and working in partnership with The Pears Group reached agreement with our banking syndicate to refinance the debt.  We have also formed another joint venture with Pears which we look forward to developing over the coming years.

Perhaps even more pleasing and despite the restructure and refinance absorbing a huge amount of management time, much has been achieved across the business in a number of areas. We have continued to deliver award-winning buildings, we were nominated for the prestigious Stirling Prize for our Park Hill development and we have won 46 more awards, taking our total to 363.

I am also delighted to report that during the last 18 months, we completed construction of our schemes at Lakeshore in Bristol, the first phase of Park Hill in Sheffield, one of the country’s most ambitious regeneration projects and New Cooperage at the Royal William Yard in Plymouth. All of these schemes are either fully let or sold and each scheme has already won several awards.

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We continue to spend much time and hard work developing our commercial investment portfolio and the residential portfolios that we manage for Places for People and others. This has allowed us to increase our annualised investment income overall to £14.7 million (£22.1 million for the 18 months to 30 September 2013), up £0.8 million. We believe our buildings are exceptionally well designed and both residential and commercial tenants appreciate the quality design and service Urban Splash is able to offer. We believe this sets us apart from the competition.

Turning to the figures, turnover has increased to £132.6 million from £33.7 million, principally as a result of the residential sale to Places for People of £77.7m. However, it’s worth noting this is the Group’s largest ever recorded turnover.  We also recorded our first profit for a financial period since 2008 of £0.05m improved from the loss of £15.4 million in the previous year. A revaluation of our commercial properties at 30th September 2013 has shown a reduction in value of £16.3 million (2012: reduction of £6.9 million) reflecting the fact that values of regional commercial property portfolios remain depressed.

Despite the difficulties faced over the last 5 years, Urban Splash has maintained its reputation as one of the country’s leading regeneration companies.  With our restructure and refinance behind us I believe that together with our new partners and our established brand, we are in a position to respond to the many opportunities now presented by the property market in the UK - we have lots of new ideas and we hope to be announcing some of them soon.

Looking forward, in the last few months both the economy and particularly the UK regional property market has shown real signs of growth.  The country continues to suffer from the severe shortage of housing particularly affordable housing and all the major political parties appear united in trying to find a solution.

I hope having survived the worst economic downturn I can remember, restructured our business and formed new joint ventures with some very significant and substantial partners, we will be well placed to continue delivering award winning regeneration schemes and much needed new homes and work spaces up and down the country.

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As ever, my thanks go to all our public and private sector partners and above all my colleagues. I am hopeful that the past is behind us and I am very much looking forward to driving this great business onward and bringing new exciting, innovative and amazing regeneration projects to the market.

Filed under: Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash

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June 11th, 2014 [ No comments ]

Park Hill: Brutally beautiful

by Deborah Wall
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Hello, I’m Deborah and I’m responsible for arranging local events that celebrate the best of English heritage… So I was thrilled this month, when Urban Splash agreed that we could use Park Hill in Sheffield as the venue for our forthcoming exhibition: “Beautiful and Brutal”. We’re staging it as part of Sheffield Design Week and will spend 23rd to 29th June at Park Hill celebrating the best post-war era architecture and listed buildings.

We’ve known Urban Splash for some time, and one of our most exciting and challenging projects is Park Hill. It’s a fantastic example of post-war architecture preserved and, with our exhibition emphasising listed buildings in the North of England, is the perfect venue.

Our exhibition will feature stunning photography and we’ll have contributions from architects of post-war buildings. We hope it will show the people of Sheffield and the broader design community just why the very best buildings are worthy of preservation.

We hope to see some of you there, here are all the details you’ll need.

Filed under: Park Hill, Urban Splash

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The Property Cycle

June 3rd, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Simon Gawthorpe

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Last week, myself and three other Urban Splash colleagues (Nathan CornishJonathan Falkingham and Ian Bull), committed to cycling an 82 mile course as part of the ‘Yorkshire Pedalthon’.

Aside from the inevitable ’saddle sores’ it was a great day and we were fortunate enough to ride part of the Tour de France Yorkshire route - the one the pros are going to be taking on in July.

The event was arranged by property consultancy Carter Jonas in aid of both the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Sustrans - a charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport - so was all for a good cause. I look forward to sharing more information about the money raised (and the ongoing pains we’ve all endured!) in due course.

Filed under: Leeds, Park Hill, Saxton, Sheffield, Urban Splash

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Turning offices into homes

May 29th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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This week I gave my thoughts to The Times newspaper, who featured an article on using disused office spaces and turning them into homes.

You can read an excerpt of the article below or the full piece here.

“It’s not exactly ‘taking your work home’, but converting commercial blocks is one way to tackle the housing crisis.

“Done well, the office-to-home process can revitalise cities and towns: Tom Bloxham, the co-founder of Urban Splash, spent the 1980s and 1990s buying up offices and disused factories in Manchester city centre and connverting them into homes. “It brought people back to live in the centre of Manchester,” he says. “It created vibrancy. Nobody used to live in the centre of Manchester back then.”

“Bloxham says the qualities people want from a home — good location, big windows and high ceilings —are often present in former commercial buildings. “There’s a generosity of proportions and character with this type of property,” says Bloxham. One of his company’s best-known projects is the Rotunda, formerly an ugly circular office block next to the new Birmingham Selfridges, now 232 slick “citypads”.

Filed under: Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash

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More awards for the Staircase to Devon

May 28th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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Our staircase at Royal William Yard has won two new awards; a RIBA South West Award 2014 and the RIBA Small Project of the Year Award. Well done to our architects Gillespie Yunnie who submitted the designs.

Sharing his love for the staircase, RIBA South West Awards chairman John Pardey said: “If staircases offer ascent to a better place, then this one certainly does. While the conversion to cafes and apartments of many of the former administration and barrack blocks is surely one of the best examples of its kind in the UK, the new staircase, at the far end of the yard, provides a moment of joy.

“Cutting through the top of the wall with a crisp steel liner, it snakes down the massive stone wall, held away and cantilevered to a half landing with tall glass balustrading that for a brief moment makes you feel like a diver about to drop into the ocean.” Read more of his views on the Plymouth Herald.

And, you might have seen the colourful staircase in one of its many hues, but now we’d like to know which is your favourite? Tell us by commenting below…

PS: You may have noticed we like a nice staircase here at Urban Splash so, as they used to say on Blue Peter, ‘here are a few more we made earlier…’

Filed under: Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash

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