Developer gives the lowdown on appeal of houses
Pioneering developer Citu is shunning flats to build houses in Sheffield city centre. Sharon Dale reports on the renaissance of low rise.
APARTMENT living is all right for some but for others a home is not a home without its own front door and a little patch of garden.
It’s this market along with a host of socio-economic factors that has sparked an ambitious plan to build 107 houses in Sheffield city centre.
Little Kelham is designed to appeal to those who want work and play on the doorstep and who want to ditch expensive and time-consuming commutes from the suburbs without sacrificing square footage.
“We definitely think there is a demand for this kind of property. Not everyone who wants to live in the city wants an apartment,” says Fraser Stride, Director of Leeds-based developer Citu, who admits that the pioneering scheme would not have been possible at the height of the property boom. Back then, soaring land values dictated that pile them high apartments were the only financially viable option on most city centre sites.
The previous owner of the plot had permission to build 300 flats until the credit crunch and recession kiboshed the plan.
“The figures would not have stacked up in 2007 but land values have now fallen and that has been the one positive aspect of the recession,” says Fraser.
“It means that developers don’t have to stack it high and compromise on quality.”
Little Kelham has been warmly welcomed by Sheffield City Council, who were impressed by Citu’s award-winning reputation and the prospect of something new and exciting to help revive the area.
Citu’s last development Greenhouse, a regeneration project in Beeston, on the fringe of Leeds city centre, took a redundant, 1930’s hostel and turned it into 172 eco-friendly flats along with office space.
The most effective low carbon apartment development in the UK, it has wind turbines to power the lifts and communal lighting, ground source heat pumps, grey water and rainwater recycling and solar thermal panels to help heat the water.
Each home and office has its own monitoring system to track energy use and the information is streamed live through the TV.
Greenhouse also aims to create a sense of community with mini allotments a bike club, free gym, a deli and a Facebook group for residents, who use the social network for organising get-togethers and for borrowing everything from ipod chargers to chairs.
No wonder it has attracted numerous “best development” awards but, more importantly for the business, Fraser and managing director Chris Thompson managed steer the project through the recession and against all the odds, they completed it in 2010, Any apartments they could not sell, they have rented out and this and other strategies have helped increase their credibility when they sought funding for Little Kelham.
As a result, the development is being financed through a combination of self-funding and private investment.
With money on the table, they have already started to convert existing old buildings on the former Green Lane Works site into commercial space they hope will be filled with creative, independent businesses, delis and possibly a crèche. Building contracts for the houses are being finalised and they will be built in phases over the next three years.
“The area has a lot of character and there’s a real sense of place. There are six real ale pubs close by, including the Fat Cat, there’s the Kelham Island museum and lots of independent shops and cafes plus you can walk into the city centre. People want to live here,” says Fraser.
The new houses, which will range from between one and four bedrooms and will be contemporary mews style built from black brick with garages underneath and gardens at the back.
Inside, there will be doubleheight spaces and plenty of storage. The development will also include natural traffic calming measures and new community and public spaces.
“Each house will be different from its neighbour. They won’t be identikit because we think our buyers value individuality,” says Fraser
Citu is hoping to make the properties zero carbon and cheap to run by installing a district or shared heating system fuelled by biomass along with solar hot water panels and rainwater harvesting.
Prices start at £115,000 for a one bedroom house to £250,000 for a four bedroom.
Given their rarity and the fact that geographers are predicting a flight to the cities away from villages and suburbs they may be a good long-term investment and Citu are looking to roll out the idea.
“We’d like to do something similar in Leeds,” says Fraser.
“People think houses don’t make sense in the city but the reason people don’t live there is because there are very few of them. If you look at Edinburgh and London, houses are incredibly desirable.
CENTRAL POSITION: Light-filled Sycamore house is part of the small and exclusive Sylvan development and has a contemporary exterior and interior.
DESIGN FOR LIFE: A computer generated image of what Little Kelham will look like