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.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

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

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