The hippest places usually spring up organically thanks to young artists, makers and musicians who seek out the cheapest areas to live and work. It happened in Notting Hill in the 1980s, then in Shoreditch and Hoxton. The best Yorkshire example so far is Hebden Bridge, which topped a poll of the “coolest places to live in Britain”.
The Fruit Market district, by the waterfront in Hull city centre, could be a challenger for that title. But what makes it remarkable is that the hip and happening vibe has been orchestrated by a couple of middle-aged developers and the local council.
Together, they cooked up a recipe to regenerate the desolate, semi-derelict buildings around Humber Street, in the city’s Old Town, and turn them into a new cultural, commercial and residential quarter.
They have added all the vital ingredients. The commercial units, including cafes, restaurants bars and shops, are all independents. There are studio spaces for artists and makers to ensure that creative people will have a permanent presence and there’s a performance venue for music, theatre and comedy in a converted warehouse.
The homes, a combination of renovations, conversions and new-build mews, are attractive, contemporary and designed to appeal to everyone from first-time buyers and young families to downsizers who want to be part of a vibrant community. (Read more: Hull house prices cheapest in Yorkshire)
You can hear excited ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from those browsing in Plant & Paint, on Humber Street, which sells houseplants, chalk paint and gorgeous gifts. ‘Wows’ echo round nearby Form, which sells prints by Northern printmakers, while elsewhere people chat over flat whites, craft beer and locally-distilled gins.
The £80m transformation of the Fruit Market into a sustainable, mixed use development looks and tastes successful, and is largely down to a friendship between homebuilder Richard Beal, head of housebuilder Beal Homes, and Dominic Gibbons, managing director of commercial development firm Wykeland. Both are long-established, respected family businesses based in Hull.
“This goes back 25 years when Dominic and I said if there was ever a mixed use scheme we could do together, we’d have a go at it. Commercial and residential developments require very different skills and there are very few companies that are proficient in both,” says Richard. “Dominic and I talked about a joint venture for the Fruit Market and we could see the potential but ultimately it was a leap of faith.
“It was a complex regeneration scheme on a brownfield site that included converting existing buildings, some of which were in a terrible state, and rebuilding others, while retaining the character of the area. Other big challenges were archaeological constraints and the fact that the east to west main sewer runs right through the middle of the site.”
The district had been home to fruit and veg wholesalers who relocated in 2009 after the city council persuaded them to move so the site could be regenerated. Manchester-based developer Igloo agreed to a joint venture with the council but the plan was killed by the last recession.
The death of that deal may have been a blessing, as the new, totally local effort looks set to be a big success. It has created a community while giving visitors what they crave, which is something different to homogenous high streets.
“The timing for the Fruit Market regeneration was right as it builds on the legacy of the City of Culture in 2017, which made people here much more confident and positive about Hull.
“The development has gone better than we ever expected and it’s wonderful to see Humber Street coming back to life,” says Richard, who insisted that most of the 105 new homes be mews-style houses, rather than the high rise apartments initially suggested by the council.
He and Dominic also went the extra mile by dropping the roof of one old building to gain a view of Hull Minster from Humber Street. “I knew we had to create something new, something Hull hadn’t seen before and we took inspiration from London when designing the mews houses. We are achieving values of £300 per square foot for the residential element, which is more than anyone has managed so far in the city centre.”
The launch of the Fruit Market housing development in 2018 was the most successful in Beal’s 50-year history, with properties worth almost £7m sold in the first weekend and demand remains high. It is due for completion later this year.
Lee Kirman and Charlotte Bailey own the Minerva pub, on the edge of the Fruit Market and, after watching the area develop, they have opened The Humber Street gin distillery and bar and The Taphouse pub, in the Fruit Market. They have also bought a Beal mews home on nearby Blanket Row.
“We love it. It’s such an exciting area and there’s already a lovely community formed from those of us who live here,” says Charlotte.
The Fruit Market district, which includes a tech campus, is part of a changing cityscape. Wykeland Beal is busy building a £13m head office on the edge of the Fruit Market for safety business Arco and other companies have noticed the potential of being in Hull.
“It’s all happening much faster than I thought it would. In five years, the skyline in Hull will have completely changed. The cranes are moving in for more development,” says Richard.
“They are attracted to Hull because it is more affordable. It offers value for money and it is a great place to live and work.”
*The Fruit Market development features 105 homes around four private courtyards, all with secure parking.
The properties are mostly mews-style townhouses but there are also chic two-bed apartments, with something to suit people at any stage of life.
Almost two-thirds of the properties are sold. Homes for sale start from £184,995 for a two-bedroom apartment to £264,995 for a three-bedroom townhouse. www.fruitmarkethull.co.uk.