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July 30th, 2015 [ No comments ]

Taking the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ on tour with the Prime Minister

by Julian Curnuck

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I’m writing this blog from Singapore, where I’m currently on a UK trade delegation with none other than the Prime Minister David Cameron!

We’re here promoting the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and have been meeting with government officials, investors and financial institutions in both Malaysia and Singapore showing them just how prominent the role of the northern economy is - and how many viable investment opportunities there are in the region.

It’s also great to have Urban Splash noticed on this global, political scale. Since 2007 we’ve worked really hard to regenerate cities, secure new funding and investment as well as establishing JV partnerships with people like The William Pears Group and Places for People. I hope I’ll leave this trip with more great contacts and more people with whom Urban Splash, Manchester and the North as a whole can work with.

Filed under: Urban Splash

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A rich range of events at the Yard

July 22nd, 2015 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Emily Handslip

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For almost a decade now I’ve had the pleasure of working with commercial occupiers at Royal William Yard in Plymouth. In that time, I’ve seen it transformed during that time from a disused naval base into somewhere that’s a flourishing cultural and gastronomical hub.

That was in part thanks to the fantastic range of occupiers who moved here, Seco Lounge, River Cottage, Le Vignoble, Wagamama, Las Iguanas to name a few, but more recently their presence has been bolstered by a fantastic and consistent programme of events.

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It’s rare now that a week goes by at the Yard without an event being hosted - each one bringing with it more local people and visitors who want to explore what’s on offer. Recently, the BBC hosted the Antiques Roadshow here to much acclaim. A vast crowd came along to see the filming and we got a ringing endorsement from the show’s presenter Fiona Bruce who said: “I’ve never been to Royal William Yard before - it’s beautiful. The people that live here are so lucky… The history of this place is absolutely fascinating… to be in a place with such historical resonance works very well for us.”

We also continue to play host to a monthly Good Food Market; regular arts & crafts markets and I’m very excited that we’ll be hosting a week of outdoor performances of a Midsummer Night’s Dream.  It’s going to be one of the most ambitious and exciting events we’ve ever hosted and comes courtesy of Mark Laville of Barbican Theatre; together we managed to find the right spot where this fascinating production will take place.  The Yard seems unique in its chameleon ability to fit itself to such events.  We’re planning more pop-up theatre in different locations later in the year but I’m particularly excited by our Weekend of Wonders on 6th September when the Invisible Circus will join us at that month’s Good Food Market, animating the site with street performances from some of the country’s finest artistes, expect the unexpected and prepare to be amazed!

It’s such a change from what life used to be like here at the Yard. Urban Splash completed the first homes in 2007 and 2008 and as the community has grown so has the range of events and things happening here. If you’ve not visited, then now’s the time to do so! Also, watch this space for announcements of events later in the year including an outdoor cinema and Christmas markets.

Filed under: Plymouth, Royal William Yard, Urban Splash

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Getting the Government’s feedback on hoUse

June 26th, 2015 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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It was great yesterday to welcome the Minister of State for Housing and Planning Brandon Lewis to New Islington – to see our new modular hoUSe (you can watch the film about hoUSe here).

I enjoyed showing him around the scheme and hearing his comments on how our work sits within the Government’s vision for housing. See what he had to say below. And in the meantime, if you want to come and see our hoUSe you can register your interest here.

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Brandon Lewis MP on hoUSe: “Manchester has a rich history of innovation, so it’s great to be here and see that spirit is alive and well with Urban Splash’s new modular housing concept. This Government has got Britain building, encouraging a new generation of house builders to pursue their ideas and come up with new and exciting ways to build homes.

“Urban Splash is a prime example of that and I want to see other new entrants follow their lead and break into the market. That way we can ensure a thriving industry that delivers the high-quality homes that hard-working people rightly deserve.”

The Minister ‘s visit was led by Urban Splash Chairman Tom Bloxham MBE, who said: “hoUSe will bring a new ideology and way of thinking to the UK residential market and I am delighted that we have already sold 75% of the available homes even before we have officially launched. Providing affordability and good design is our main objective and I look forward to welcoming more people to this site – and other planned hoUSe sites – in the coming months.”

Filed under: Manchester, New Islington, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash, hoUSe

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Back to the Schoolhouse

June 22nd, 2015 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Paul Jones

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We’ve just hosted a fantastic event for office agents at the award-winning Schoolhouse scheme in Trafford Park.

One of the first Urban Splash commercial schemes and originally redeveloped in 1996, it’s a great space filled with beautiful offices and some cool occupiers. We recently decided to update some of the spaces there for contemporary occupiers and it was those units that we invited agents to come and see today.

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We had around 30 of Manchester’s top agents through the door, with lots of great feedback about the spaces and a simple closing statement from one attendee saying it had all been a ‘resounding success’.

We’ve already let one of the refurbished units, but if you’re a business looking for some space then take a look at what’s on offer here.

Filed under: Urban Splash

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I was delighted to read that we had topped the list of developer clients whose schemes have won the most national RIBA Awards.

We’ve won 11 national awards, and I’m really proud that as a relatively small, Northern-based developer we were able to top the rankings ahead of much larger, more established developers.

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Great architecture is part of the reason we get out of bed every morning so I’m honoured that we’ve topped the list. Our developments are different as we like to push it, we have fun with the architects and get as much as we can out of every building, which makes them better places to live, work and play.

We’ve won 57 RIBA awards in total for our efforts - and more than 350 overall accolades since we formed.

Read the full article in the Architects Journal.

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Filed under: Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash

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I loved Sir Richard Leese’s recent article about Manchester and about the way the city’s fathers are using culture to help its regeneration.

Over the last 30 years I’ve seen a fantastic rebirth of our city centre - with people and jobs moving back into areas that were once deserted. I’m very proud to have played a small part with Urban Splash creating great new areas like Castlefield, the Northern Quarter and New Islington and also chairing the Manchester International Festival and being privileged to be Chancellor of Manchester University.

But big thanks go to Sir Richard Leese and Sir Howard Bernstein who have had the vision to turn the city around, and had the confidence to deliver the rich regeneration of Manchester.

Read what Sir Richard had to say about the city, its culture and how we can continue to make it a great place to live here.

Filed under: Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash

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May 28th, 2015 [ No comments ]

Site update at Stubbs

by Mike Banton
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I’m spending a lot of my time on site at Stubbs Mill in Manchester and it’s a really exciting place to be.

The majority of the demolition works are now complete and we’ve removed the dilapidated ground floor slab - the replacement for which we’ll be installing in the coming weeks.

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One of the biggest jobs we’ve undertaken this week is creating a series openings at ground floor level. These will become vast doors which the eventual tenants can open up to create a multi-purpose indoor/outdoor office space.

Watch this space for details of the next construction update; we’ll next be turning our attentions to the drainage works and service trenches.

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Filed under: New Islington, Urban Splash

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The next phase at Park Hill

May 21st, 2015 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Simon Gawthorpe

parkhill_phase2_blog1We’ve just announced that we’re on site with the next wave of new homes at Park Hill.

We’re creating 182 one, two and three bedroomed apartments in 2015 and the construction programme will run alongside our other works at the site including ongoing landscaping, public realm and of course continuing our year-long arts programme at the Scottish Queen.

It’s a great place to live and work and has been since we sold the first homes there a few years ago - all 91 of which are occupied. We believe that this latest activity will establish a vibrant community that will provide the springboard to the next phases.

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By the end of this year we could have 200 people working here and 400 people living here. We can’t wait to share this journey with you.

Read more about the next phase of Park Hill in our latest press coverage on the scheme:

Yorkshire Business Insider

The Star

The Architects Journal

Filed under: Park Hill, Urban Splash

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Feast your eyes on the Yard

May 16th, 2015 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Nathan Cornish

rwy-wildwood-blog2_sqWe’ll soon be welcoming another restaurant at Royal William Yard.

London-based pizza and pasta restaurant Wildwood has confirmed that it is going to join the likes of Prezzo, Seco, Wagamama, Las Iguanas, Le Vignoble and more in the Slaughterhouse building at the scheme.

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It’s an exciting time at the Yard; just a couple of weeks ago,  the ferry service from the scheme restarted for the summer 2015 season and just a few weeks ago Visit Britain put the development in lights as part of a spectacular display which saw 18m high projections put onto the various buildings.

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Keep checking the blog for details of the restaurant as it progresses, and if you’re a restauranteur or business owner looking to move to the scheme, contact emilyhandslip@urbansplash.co.uk in our commercial team for details of what’s available.

Filed under: Mills Bakery, Plymouth, Royal William Yard, Urban Splash

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Ready for round 2!

May 7th, 2015 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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I recently did an interview with the RIBA Journal in which I reflected on the past 22 years in property, how we’re preparing for the next era of development and the exciting schemes we’ve got planned like hoUSe and Stubbs Mill.

Read the article below or on the RIBA Journal website.

After a knife-edge recession, Urban Splash’s Tom Bloxham has come out of his corner fighting

‘It would have been very easy just to have shut up shop and gone to live in my beautiful house in the south of France’, reflects Tom Bloxham. ‘But that’s not really my style.’ He’s talking about the way his famously design-led property company, Urban Splash, made it through the economic crisis – just. Things got very sticky. For five years, he ruefully recalls, he changed from being a property developer to a debt manager. ‘It was bloody hard. A number of those five years, every Monday I was staring at a solicitor in the office, wondering if we were still a going concern, whether I’d be able to pay the wages at the end of the week.’

He can say all this now, because Urban Splash has emerged strongly from the recession, is recruiting again, and has new projects on the go. Shortly after our meeting, Bloxham was off as usual to the Mipim international property fair in Cannes where – again as usual – he was to host the hot-ticket closing party at that lovely house he mentioned. No ordinary house, of course, rather an extraordinary affair of intersecting concrete bubbles up in the hills, the Maison Bulle, by the late Antii Lovag. One day I really must go there. But despite this evidence of continuity, things have changed in various ways. One example: for the first time the company has a stake in London, most notably on the 2012 Olympics site where it is part of the consortium working on the 1500-home East Wick and Sweetwater neighbourhood, masterplanned by Studio Egret West and Sheppard Robson with a fine roster of other architects.

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Bloxham has previously preferred to do his developments in the English urban regions, where grants are available, land is cheap and there is a huge resource of existing post-industrial buildings to convert and extend. Right next to the Urban Splash offices on the Bridgewater Canal south-west of central Manchester, surrounded by a cluster of its developments and upscale apartments by others, even today you can find rough-and-ready offices in someone else’s old warehouse being advertised on a signboard for just ­£1/ft2. It’s a different world from the overheated south-east: there Bloxham wisely dilutes his exposure through joint ventures.

Outside Urban Splash, Bloxham is a big noise in the arts scene, a Tate trustee and chair of the biennial Manchester International Festival. He’s working on plans for the Festival’s permanent home, the Factory, a very large flexible adaptable performance venue which has £78m of government money promised by Chancellor George Osborne as part of his ‘Northern Powerhouse’ initiative. We indirectly have Bloxham to thank, too, for the new Whitworth Gallery by MUMA (RIBAJ, March 2015): he chaired the competition judges.

But some 80 per cent of his time, he says, is spent on Urban Splash business, and for all the positive talk there’s no doubt that the wounds of the recession will take time to heal. It’s an occupational hazard of being in the boom-and-bust development game. Timing is everything and Urban Splash – like many others – got caught out, with an overhang of big projects just as the world economy collapsed. Given Urban Splash’s high profile, this was played out in the glare of publicity. But the dogged Bloxham wasn’t going to let go. The company slimmed down radically, did deals, and kept going on projects such as the first phase of Park Hill in Sheffield by Studio Egret West and HawkinsBrown, or Lakeshore in Bristol, the ambitious conversion of the listed 1973 Wills/Imperial Tobacco HQ done in Miesian manner by SOM and now converted to apartments by Ferguson Mann. Another biggie that just kept going was Royal William Yard in Plymouth, a grade 1 listed early 19th century former naval complex over 6ha converted in phases – again by Ferguson Mann, later also by Gillespie Yunnie. Right in the teeth of the slump, Urban Splash even managed to complete an old-school warehouse conversion to spacious apartments in its own Manchester backyard. ‘We found that in hard times, people look for quality,’ Bloxham remarks. Now he’s bought Plymouth’s postwar civic centre, a typically outré move. As for future phases of Park Hill, there’s a hint he may have taken on board some of the criticisms of the first phase, which entirely transformed the appearance of this listed building. ‘It will be extremely exciting and surprising,’ he says. ‘It won’t be more of the same.’

We’re talking in Bloxham’s office in Timber Wharf – the breakout competition win for architect Glenn Howells back in the late 1990s that signalled Urban Splash’s ambitious move into newbuild and the start of boom times for the company. To get that going, Bloxham typically aimed high, recruiting Richard Rogers to chair the competition: judging took place in the House of Lords. Timber Wharf, a bold precast concrete construction by Howells with generous space standards, has weathered pretty well but taught a planning lesson: broadly parallel to the canal, it presents an impenetrable wall to the buildings behind it. Subsequent Urban Splash waterside schemes set their blocks at right angles to the water in ‘fingers’ of development.

A couple of miles north-east along Manchester’s canal corridor from here, you find physical evidence on the ground of the cycle of boom, retrenchment and revival. It’s all there to be seen in New Islington, the simply enormous Urban Splash-led development, masterplanned by Will Alsop, which was to make an entire new city district out of a mix of post industrial land and the 1970s Cardroom council estate. Go there today and you can see just where everything juddered to a halt – the expensive, beautifully finished engineering of the new canal basins intended as the centrepiece of the development – but set in a cleared landscape surrounded by chainlink fences. The derelict listed Ancoats Dispensary still stands there, shrouded in scaffolding. The Ancoats Dispensary Trust will take it over from Urban Splash later this year and start restoration, helped by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Alsop’s ‘Chips’ apartment block still looks fresh – unlike FAT’s famously jaunty Islington Square 23-home social housing project. This is now quite startlingly shabby after nine years, its perforated balconies rotting and evidence of roof repairs in progress. More conventional later housing nearby by mæ architects looks more durable.

But Bloxham has not finished with New Islington. He’s going to convert the derelict Stubbs Mill there – close to the Dispensary – into ‘funky’ workspace. And close to Islington Square, the builders are back on his latest, most cherished scheme. A large site is being prepared and houses being built, five so far. This time, they are factory-built prefabricated units designed by Urban Splash’s long-term collaborator, ShedKM. This is the scheme known simply as ‘House’, which allows buyers to configure their homes in various ways, much as they would a new car. Bloxham says 37 of the 44 units are already sold. ‘People like the way they can design them themselves.’

He has other sites lined up for more developments in Newcastle and Salford, and wants to roll them out nationwide. Is he confident again? You don’t really need to ask. ‘It’s the thing I’m most interested in,’ he says. ‘I want to be building hundreds, if not thousands, of these homes in a few years’ time.’

Filed under: Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash

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