Built environment: Investors with lofty ambitions

By Ged Henderson

04 Apr 2024

John Heaton

City living continues to look up in Preston. The acquisition of two major development schemes, including the city’s tallest residential skyscraper, shows just how high its star is rising.

The changing skyline is another indication of the growing number of residential developments being delivered in the heart of the city.

Family-owned property investment group Belgravia, based in Cheshire, struck the deals, worth £8m in total, highlighting that the appetite for investment in Preston shows no signs of slowing.

It has paid £6.3m for the 471-apartment Stoneygate Central site, now renamed Urban Village, and an initial £1.7m for Lofthaus, a 21-storey development that will deliver a 307 co-living apartment community in the heart of the city.

Urban Village is a two-acre plot, formerly known as Dryden Mill. The scheme, valued at £120m, according to reports, is part of the 15-year masterplan to deliver 1,600 new homes in a historic area of the city centre, close to St John’s Minster.

The Lofthaus, reported to be valued at £45m, is a high-end development which will also include co-living spaces and a host of amenities including library, cinema, spa and wellness facilities and a rooftop garden. A wholly family led company, Belgravia is spearheaded by three directors aged under 36. It describes its investments as a show of its “trust” in Preston’s potential.

Both developments are scheduled for completion in the second half of 2025.

They will join a growing number of high-end residential development schemes delivered or in the pipeline in the city centre.

Belgravia’s head of family, Christopher Howell, said: “As a family, we are determined to support the city into the next stage of its continued growth by delivering fantastic communities, attracting and retaining alumni, and showcasing Preston on the global stage.

“We believe this amazing city, that’s built on pioneers of industry, can spearhead the growing demand for luxury co-living communities that showcase what it means to be proud of your community.”

He added that its developments are “designed to encourage a cosmopolitan vibe, where communities thrive”.

The Preston projects join an impressive Belgravia portfolio, with £260m Gross Development Value (GDV), 300,000 sq ft of commercial space, 1,040 homes, and 2,500 homes in the pipeline. Belgravia’s ambition is to deliver an additional 2,500 units by the end of 2028, “changing the face and vibrancy of major northern cities, with communities at the heart of their model.”

It says its mission is to enrich the communities it builds, creating social value through “establishing partnerships and forming meaningful relationships”. Christopher said: “We select the best-in-class team to ensure quality and delivery.”

Meanwhile, another family development business continues to show its faith in and put its money in Preston with its latest city living project.

Heaton Group secured approval for its Preston Park Hotel revamp in February. The business has already invested heavily in the city, helping spearhead its city living strategy.

Its latest project will see the transformation of the historic hotel building, formerly county council offices, into a 65-bed aparthotel, with plans to build two apartment blocks, with a total of 321 properties nearby.

The plans for the striking building, which has stood empty for some time, also include a ground floor restaurant, co-working space and a gym.

Park Hotel, overlooking Millar Park, has a distinguished past with Queen Victoria among its guests.

The Wigan headquartered Heaton Group has already delivered The Exchange, a 16-storey apartment block, near the Stoneygate development area.

Its first project in Preston city centre was Bishopgate Garden, near Preston’s rejuvenated markets.

The development of 130 residential apartments, with features such as a concierge service, coffee shop, shared work space and onsite retail units, was seen as helping kickstart city living in Preston.

Speaking to Lancashire Business View last year, group managing director John Heaton said: “Preston is undergoing such a transformation at the moment and going from strength to strength, it really is the city to be in, and we’re excited to be part of it.”

He added: “Place, communities and people are important to us. We don’t see buildings just as units where people live or work. To us it’s where people create their homes and their communities.”

Enjoyed this? Read more from Ged Henderson

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