Inside The Details Of Hammerson's Department Store-To-BTR Conversion
Hammerson has become the first major UK property owner to submit plans to turn a defunct department store into build-to-rent apartments. And a key debate around the scheme centres on space.
New build-to-rent units to be developed on the site of Hammerson’s Highcross shopping centre in Leicester are smaller than national guidelines suggest, although the local authority in question has not adopted those standards. And residents will not have balconies.
Hammerson, owner and manager of Highcross, has submitted plans to redevelop the 130K SF former Debenhams store at the shopping centre in Leicester into new homes for rent. Hammerson has worked jointly with private-rented-sector specialist Packaged Living, to develop the application.
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The nationally described space standard was introduced in 2016 to replace existing different space standards used by local authorities. But Leicester City Council has not adopted the new rules.
The Leicester BTR plan is a first step for Hammerson as it develops its City Quarters concept to help it diversify beyond retail, including recently approved plans for the 10-acre Bishopsgate Goodsyard development to see 500 homes and 1.4M SF of workspace.
The plan will also be significant for Birmingham’s Martineau Galleries scheme. Hammerson’s plans for the Birmingham site have evolved from 1.2M SF of retail to 1,300 new homes and 1.4 SF of workspace on the 7.5-acre city-centre site.
At Highcross, planning paperwork shows a debate between Hammerson and Leicester council’s planners that saw the number of units come down from 354 units to 332. At the same time applicants and officers discussed how the scheme could manage to cope with smaller apartments. In July 2020 council officers said the scheme would have to provide better amenities to justify smaller apartments.
By October 2020 “it was confirmed by officers that the reduction in unit sizes below the NDSS, as well as the omission of balconies, would be acceptable given the high-quality internal unit layouts and communal amenity space provided,” a document submitted to support the application said.
The result is that studio, one-bed and two-bed apartments fall short of the NDSS by 27 SF, 32 SF and 54 SF, respectively. The applicants argue that lack of internal corridors between flats means “the living space will be generous, regular in shape and with clean lines allowing every inch of space to be used”.
The 130K SF brick-built former Debenhams store and 201 space car park will be replaced by three blocks branded St Peter’s Lane. The original store dates from the early 1990s shopping centre, first known as The Shires.
“St Peter’s Lane is the result of Hammerson and Packaged Living’s shared vision to deliver good quality rental homes within sustainable, mixed-use communities,” Packaged Living managing director Mark Woodrow said.