Leading student property company Purple Frog is looking to leap across to Worcester, after signing a contract with PFHD Worcester, which has set in motion plans for a 149-bedroom Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) scheme. Due to complete in the summer of 2020, the project will see the reinvigoration of a Grade II listed building on Henwick Road, preserving the historic Gothic-façade, while revamping and extending the interior to include a gym, study facilities, communal spaces, en-suite rooms and studio flats, perfect for the city’s growing student community.
The project will add to Purple Frog’s impressive portfolio, extending its presence beyond Birmingham, Nottingham, and Bristol, where it already manages properties for over 2,500 students nationally.
The decision by Purple Frog to look to Worcester as its next site location was an easy one: in the past ten years, the number of people applying to the University of Worcester has grown at a much higher rate than the national average, and it currently has over 10,000 students, contributing to the West Midlands’ higher education institutions total of £2.2billion to the regional GVA.
What’s more, the percentage of students studying at the university who come from outside Worcester is growing, meaning it’s more important than ever for quality, affordable student housing to be established close to the university. As it stands, the University of Worcester currently subcontracts 500 bed spaces in the private sector, as it does not have enough accommodation to supply its students. This latest development will tackle this problem head on, providing self-contained university accommodation, which in turn equally reduces the strain on local residential properties.
Speaking about Purple Frog’s expansion into Worcester, Managing Director Patrick Garratt, commented:
“This is an incredibly exciting time for us at Purple Frog, as Worcester is a city we’ve had our eye on for a while now: its prominent student population and its growing recognition as one of the region’s leading higher-education institutions means that there has never been a more exciting time to get involved with the university. There is clearly demand for high quality student accommodation and we’re looking forward to meeting that demand and providing a proper level of service to the tenants, the landlords, the investors and being good neighbours within the local community.”
The site being renovated has a rich history, as a former orphanage and more recently, the site of the YMCA. Both PFHD Worcester and Purple Frog are working closely with the Planning and Conservation Officer for Worcester City Council, as well as the planning consultants Malcolm Scott Consultants Ltd and DJD Architects, to ensure that the history of the building is kept alive, preserving its significance to the city in the process. Should the planning permission be approved, a handover period has been agreed with the current occupants to ensure that they are fully relocated to their new site before works begin, with both parties actively working together to ensure no loss of provision or service to its users occurs.
In order to ensure that both the historical significance and the future functionality of the building is upheld, both the planning consultants and the architects involved have been paramount. James Pugh from DJD Architects has been at the forefront of this part of the project, and stated:
“This is a fantastic opportunity to secure the future of one of Worcester’s most notable Victorian buildings while at the same time contributing to the growing success of the university. The investment in the historic fabric made possible by the contribution of additional new accommodation will put the building in good shape for many years to come. It will be rewarding to see the building continue to help shape the lives of the young people who pass through its doors, as it has done for more than 150 years already.”
Tracy Hubbard from Malcolm Scott Consultants added:
‘This is an exciting opportunity for the City of Worcester, which continues to flourish as a University City. The project will ensure a long-term viable use for this important historic building, whilst providing much needed purpose built student accommodation in a highly sustainable location’.
The sale of the building has been facilitated by Andrew Grant Estate Agents. Commenting on the process, Andrew Grant said:
“Purple Frog have provided a great opportunity for the YMCA site to be put to very good use providing dedicated student rental accommodation for the University of Worcester. I am so pleased that the Grade II YMCA building is being given an extended life to support Worcestershire and the county. Purple Frog were a very professional firm to be involved with and to hopefully bring things to a satisfactory conclusion”.
The Worcester site is still awaiting planning permission, and a drop-in public consultation has already been scheduled to take place at the YMCA, on Thursday 21 December 2017 between 3pm and 6pm. Local residents and businesses will be welcome to pop in to discuss the scheme. If the project receives the green light in 2018, the next stage will be to finalise the YMCA’s relocation plans to ensure no service is lost to those benefiting from the YMCA’s great work.
“Here at YMCA Worcestershire we believe that all young people should have a safe place to live, and we are delighted that the sale of Henwick Road will enable us to diversify and work with a wider range of young people,” concluded, Duncan Berry, CEO of YMCA Worcestershire.
To have your say on the project, please feel free to attend the public consultation and present your views.