Renaissance Works in Huddersfield occupies a prominent position at the end of New Street, overlooking the ring road.
The former 1930s Co-operative building, which later became a music centre and then a Heaven and Hell nightclub, has been an eyesore for over a decade since the nightclub closed in 2004. Developers looked at the building but couldn’t make it work financially until Mr Pervaiz came along and decided to turn it into Huddersfield’s most luxurious student accommodation.
The managing director of SKA Developments has created a string of high-end luxury student buildings across the town but this one is different.
This is an experiment to see if students are willing to go beyond the current £160-a-week ceiling and pay up to £195-a-week for luxury living in the centre of Huddersfield.
Having attracted a lot of wealthy international students, including a Kuwaiti princess, to his previous developments in the town, Mr Pervaiz has high hopes for Renaissance Works.
The 138-bed development will feature a mixture of one and two bedroom studios, with communal kitchen and lounge areas, along with one-bedroom self-contained apartments. It also has five penthouse-style apartments.
“It’s primarily being built for international students but we’re not negating the domestic side because domestic students now want the same as the international students,” says Mr Pervaiz.
In order to make the development stack up financially, Mr Pervaiz has installed some basement rooms and added three floors above the original building.
“Traditionally we wouldn’t build in the basement but in order to hit critical mass we had to put units there,” he said.
Mr Pervaiz is using a £10m a Kirklees Council loan to fund the project. “No bank would lend you money on this building,” he says.
He also has a back-up plan. The rooms and studio apartments have been designed with flexibility in mind so they can easily be converted to private residential.
“We know that young millennials will take these and it’s better to put these things in now than to retrofit in the future,” he says.
In the early days of the pandemic he decided to change the plans. Originally, 50 per cent of its apartments were for communal living. Now it’s less than 10 per cent.
The building is designed to be energy efficient with features including light sensors, motion sensors and five-pane thick windows.
Mr Pervaiz admits it’s been a ‘proper challenge’ to keep the building going due to supply chain issues. Hopes for a summer completion were dashed and now he is counting on a December launch, ready for a cohort of international students in January.
The building is 70 per cent pre-let. “We could have rammed it full of 200 rooms but we’re selling a lifestyle,” says Mr Pervaiz.
“We give them everything,” he adds. “They all get an en-suite, a microwave, toaster, kettle, oven, pots and pans. No other student accommodation provider in Huddersfield does that.
“We also give them massive data usage. The whole building has two 1GB lines coming in. We also use the same software and hardware that the university uses.”
The trend for large communal cinema rooms and games rooms in luxury student accommodation has been and gone, Mr Pervaiz believes. Instead, Renaissance Works will have smaller cinema and media rooms in the lounge areas of each communal apartment.
“What we noticed in another of our buildings, Dundas Works, was that the cinema room wasn’t where students wanted to chill out,” he says. “If you provide something in their apartment where it’s constant and they don’t have to book it then they will use it.”
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