Of­fices to homes conversion on in­dus­trial es­tate a big suc­cess

The Clifton Moor in­dus­trial es­tate in York is be­com­ing a starter home hub thanks to the vi­sion of one man. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY NEWS -

THOSE DREAM­ING of their first home may have en­ter­tained thoughts of a cot­tage with roses round the door or per­haps a fash­ion­able city cen­tre pad.

They have al­most cer­tainly never imag­ined living in a con­verted of­fice block in the mid­dle of a large in­dus­trial es­tate.

It takes vi­sion to see how that would work but fore­sight is some­thing de­vel­oper John Reeves has never been short of.

“This was a gut feel and a gam­ble,” he says as he sur­veys what be­gan as a sin­gle of­fice block conversion on the busi­ness park sec­tion of the Clifton

Moor In­dus­trial es­tate. It is now mor­ph­ing into a hous­ing es­tate full of starter homes.

John is chair­man of York­based Helm­s­ley Group, whose de­vel­op­ments are pri­vately funded by a string of uber­rich in­di­vid­u­als. The com­pany has a rep­u­ta­tion for cre­at­ing “some­thing dif­fer­ent” and usu­ally up­mar­ket. Its most re­cent tri­umph is York’s most ex­pen­sive new-build home, the £1.85m King’s Guinea, which over­looks the Knavesmire.

Wealthy in­vestors see John as the man with the Midas touch when it comes to prop­erty op­por­tu­ni­ties but they were as­ton­ished when he sug­gested turn­ing empty of­fice blocks into a “Brook­side” for first-time buy­ers.

“It was hard to imag­ine but I knew we could ful­fil a de­mand for new starter homes that could not be sat­is­fied in the city cen­tre. This is sec­ondary of­fice space built in the 1980s and 90s and one of the blocks had been empty for five years but I could see they would make great apart­ments that we could sell at an af­ford­able price,” he says.

Profit was para­mount but he was also mo­ti­vated by al­tru­ism. “It’s been very sat­is­fy­ing. Young peo­ple re­ally strug­gle to get on to the prop­erty lad­der in York and this is a so­lu­tion.”

To en­sure that they had a fight­ing chance against buyto-let in­vestors, only would-be owner oc­cu­piers were al­lowed to pur­chase dur­ing the first six weeks of mar­ket­ing.

“That gave them time to get a mort­gage in place and it worked. Eighty six per cent of peo­ple who bought are first-time buy­ers and a lot of them bought through the gov­ern­ment’s Help to Buy shared eq­uity scheme,” says John.

Prices range from at £99,950 for a stu­dio flat, £115,00 for a onebed­room and £195,000 for a twobed­room flat with a gar­den.

After quickly selling all the flats in Halo, the first “of­fice to resi” de­vel­op­ment, the Helm­s­ley Group con­verted three neigh­bour­ing of­fice blocks on the site. It is work­ing on other schemes, two of which will be build to rent, along with a clutch of con­tem­po­rary SIP panel houses on the for­mer of­fice car parks.

John Reeves’ un­likely idea has been a soar­away suc­cess thanks to Clifton Moor’s lo­ca­tion, a short bus ride or a two-mile cy­cle ride from York city cen­tre. It is also amenity-rich, with pubs, out-oftown stores, a huge Tesco and a gym close by. The apart­ments’ space, abun­dance of nat­u­ral light and free, ded­i­cated park­ing spa­ces have also helped.

Turn­ing of­fices into homes can be lu­cra­tive as it does not re­quire plan­ning per­mis­sion or sec­tion 106 pay­ments for com­mu­nity ben­e­fit schemes. The gov­ern­ment re­laxed the rules in 2013 to help tackle the hous­ing short­age. So far, most have been in town and city cen­tres but the Helm­s­ley Group’s con­ver­sions could set a new trend.

The owner of a neigh­bour­ing of­fice block on the Clifton Moor in­dus­trial es­tate has al­ready launched a copy­cat scheme, which could soon boost the to­tal num­ber of flats to al­most 200.

“I think within ten years this area will be 80 per cent homes. It will be a com­mu­nity,” says John.

Tom Boyle, an ac­counts as­sis­tant for Helm­s­ley Group, bought a large one-bed­room apart­ment for £127,500 in the first conversion. While the views are of in­dus­trial sheds rather than me­dieval streets, the price was right and and it has turned out to be a great place to live.

Tom, 26, and his part­ner, Milly, 23, bought through the Help to Buy scheme. Thanks to the 20 per cent eq­uity loan and a five per cent de­posit, their mort­gage is £400 a month.

Tom says: “It’s a great lo­ca­tion and once you are in­side you don’t think about the in­dus­trial es­tate. We have a park­ing space for the car, Tesco is a two-minute walk away, there are places to eat and a gym close by and it takes ten min­utes to drive into the city cen­tre.

“There is no way we could have af­forded to buy an apart­ment like this in the cen­tre of York.”

OF­FICE HOMES: The 1980s and 90s of­fices at Clifton Moor are no longer pop­u­lar and are be­ing re­cy­cled as apart­ments by the Helm­s­ley Group, which is also buld­ing a hand­ful of houses.

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