Site update at Stubbs

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

I’m spending a lot of my time on site at Stubbs Mill in Manchester and it’s a really exciting place to be.

The majority of the demolition works are now complete and we’ve removed the dilapidated ground floor slab - the replacement for which we’ll be installing in the coming weeks.


One of the biggest jobs we’ve undertaken this week is creating a series openings at ground floor level. These will become vast doors which the eventual tenants can open up to create a multi-purpose indoor/outdoor office space.

Watch this space for details of the next construction update; we’ll next be turning our attentions to the drainage works and service trenches.


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The next phase at Park Hill

May 21st, 2015 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Simon Gawthorpe

parkhill_phase2_blog1We’ve just announced that we’re on site with the next wave of new homes at Park Hill.

We’re creating 182 one, two and three bedroomed apartments in 2015 and the construction programme will run alongside our other works at the site including ongoing landscaping, public realm and of course continuing our year-long arts programme at the Scottish Queen.

It’s a great place to live and work and has been since we sold the first homes there a few years ago - all 91 of which are occupied. We believe that this latest activity will establish a vibrant community that will provide the springboard to the next phases.


By the end of this year we could have 200 people working here and 400 people living here. We can’t wait to share this journey with you.

Read more about the next phase of Park Hill in our latest press coverage on the scheme:

Yorkshire Business Insider

The Star

The Architects Journal

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Feast your eyes on the Yard

May 16th, 2015 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Nathan Cornish

rwy-wildwood-blog2_sqWe’ll soon be welcoming another restaurant at Royal William Yard.

London-based pizza and pasta restaurant Wildwood has confirmed that it is going to join the likes of Prezzo, Seco, Wagamama, Las Iguanas, Le Vignoble and more in the Slaughterhouse building at the scheme.


It’s an exciting time at the Yard; just a couple of weeks ago,  the ferry service from the scheme restarted for the summer 2015 season and just a few weeks ago Visit Britain put the development in lights as part of a spectacular display which saw 18m high projections put onto the various buildings.


Keep checking the blog for details of the restaurant as it progresses, and if you’re a restauranteur or business owner looking to move to the scheme, contact in our commercial team for details of what’s available.

Filed under: Mills Bakery, Plymouth, Royal William Yard, Urban Splash No comments

Ready for round 2!

May 7th, 2015 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE


I recently did an interview with the RIBA Journal in which I reflected on the past 22 years in property, how we’re preparing for the next era of development and the exciting schemes we’ve got planned like hoUSe and Stubbs Mill.

Read the article below or on the RIBA Journal website.

After a knife-edge recession, Urban Splash’s Tom Bloxham has come out of his corner fighting

‘It would have been very easy just to have shut up shop and gone to live in my beautiful house in the south of France’, reflects Tom Bloxham. ‘But that’s not really my style.’ He’s talking about the way his famously design-led property company, Urban Splash, made it through the economic crisis – just. Things got very sticky. For five years, he ruefully recalls, he changed from being a property developer to a debt manager. ‘It was bloody hard. A number of those five years, every Monday I was staring at a solicitor in the office, wondering if we were still a going concern, whether I’d be able to pay the wages at the end of the week.’

He can say all this now, because Urban Splash has emerged strongly from the recession, is recruiting again, and has new projects on the go. Shortly after our meeting, Bloxham was off as usual to the Mipim international property fair in Cannes where – again as usual – he was to host the hot-ticket closing party at that lovely house he mentioned. No ordinary house, of course, rather an extraordinary affair of intersecting concrete bubbles up in the hills, the Maison Bulle, by the late Antii Lovag. One day I really must go there. But despite this evidence of continuity, things have changed in various ways. One example: for the first time the company has a stake in London, most notably on the 2012 Olympics site where it is part of the consortium working on the 1500-home East Wick and Sweetwater neighbourhood, masterplanned by Studio Egret West and Sheppard Robson with a fine roster of other architects.


Bloxham has previously preferred to do his developments in the English urban regions, where grants are available, land is cheap and there is a huge resource of existing post-industrial buildings to convert and extend. Right next to the Urban Splash offices on the Bridgewater Canal south-west of central Manchester, surrounded by a cluster of its developments and upscale apartments by others, even today you can find rough-and-ready offices in someone else’s old warehouse being advertised on a signboard for just ­£1/ft2. It’s a different world from the overheated south-east: there Bloxham wisely dilutes his exposure through joint ventures.

Outside Urban Splash, Bloxham is a big noise in the arts scene, a Tate trustee and chair of the biennial Manchester International Festival. He’s working on plans for the Festival’s permanent home, the Factory, a very large flexible adaptable performance venue which has £78m of government money promised by Chancellor George Osborne as part of his ‘Northern Powerhouse’ initiative. We indirectly have Bloxham to thank, too, for the new Whitworth Gallery by MUMA (RIBAJ, March 2015): he chaired the competition judges.

But some 80 per cent of his time, he says, is spent on Urban Splash business, and for all the positive talk there’s no doubt that the wounds of the recession will take time to heal. It’s an occupational hazard of being in the boom-and-bust development game. Timing is everything and Urban Splash – like many others – got caught out, with an overhang of big projects just as the world economy collapsed. Given Urban Splash’s high profile, this was played out in the glare of publicity. But the dogged Bloxham wasn’t going to let go. The company slimmed down radically, did deals, and kept going on projects such as the first phase of Park Hill in Sheffield by Studio Egret West and HawkinsBrown, or Lakeshore in Bristol, the ambitious conversion of the listed 1973 Wills/Imperial Tobacco HQ done in Miesian manner by SOM and now converted to apartments by Ferguson Mann. Another biggie that just kept going was Royal William Yard in Plymouth, a grade 1 listed early 19th century former naval complex over 6ha converted in phases – again by Ferguson Mann, later also by Gillespie Yunnie. Right in the teeth of the slump, Urban Splash even managed to complete an old-school warehouse conversion to spacious apartments in its own Manchester backyard. ‘We found that in hard times, people look for quality,’ Bloxham remarks. Now he’s bought Plymouth’s postwar civic centre, a typically outré move. As for future phases of Park Hill, there’s a hint he may have taken on board some of the criticisms of the first phase, which entirely transformed the appearance of this listed building. ‘It will be extremely exciting and surprising,’ he says. ‘It won’t be more of the same.’

We’re talking in Bloxham’s office in Timber Wharf – the breakout competition win for architect Glenn Howells back in the late 1990s that signalled Urban Splash’s ambitious move into newbuild and the start of boom times for the company. To get that going, Bloxham typically aimed high, recruiting Richard Rogers to chair the competition: judging took place in the House of Lords. Timber Wharf, a bold precast concrete construction by Howells with generous space standards, has weathered pretty well but taught a planning lesson: broadly parallel to the canal, it presents an impenetrable wall to the buildings behind it. Subsequent Urban Splash waterside schemes set their blocks at right angles to the water in ‘fingers’ of development.

A couple of miles north-east along Manchester’s canal corridor from here, you find physical evidence on the ground of the cycle of boom, retrenchment and revival. It’s all there to be seen in New Islington, the simply enormous Urban Splash-led development, masterplanned by Will Alsop, which was to make an entire new city district out of a mix of post industrial land and the 1970s Cardroom council estate. Go there today and you can see just where everything juddered to a halt – the expensive, beautifully finished engineering of the new canal basins intended as the centrepiece of the development – but set in a cleared landscape surrounded by chainlink fences. The derelict listed Ancoats Dispensary still stands there, shrouded in scaffolding. The Ancoats Dispensary Trust will take it over from Urban Splash later this year and start restoration, helped by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Alsop’s ‘Chips’ apartment block still looks fresh – unlike FAT’s famously jaunty Islington Square 23-home social housing project. This is now quite startlingly shabby after nine years, its perforated balconies rotting and evidence of roof repairs in progress. More conventional later housing nearby by mæ architects looks more durable.

But Bloxham has not finished with New Islington. He’s going to convert the derelict Stubbs Mill there – close to the Dispensary – into ‘funky’ workspace. And close to Islington Square, the builders are back on his latest, most cherished scheme. A large site is being prepared and houses being built, five so far. This time, they are factory-built prefabricated units designed by Urban Splash’s long-term collaborator, ShedKM. This is the scheme known simply as ‘House’, which allows buyers to configure their homes in various ways, much as they would a new car. Bloxham says 37 of the 44 units are already sold. ‘People like the way they can design them themselves.’

He has other sites lined up for more developments in Newcastle and Salford, and wants to roll them out nationwide. Is he confident again? You don’t really need to ask. ‘It’s the thing I’m most interested in,’ he says. ‘I want to be building hundreds, if not thousands, of these homes in a few years’ time.’

Filed under: Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash No comments

Overlooked: A new arts exhibition at Park Hill

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015


I’m delighted that we’ve now launched the ‘Overlooked’ art exhibition at Park Hill which showcases the work of five Sheffield-based artists.

More than 200 people came to the exhibition opening; from residents to artists to historians researching the iconic architecture of the site. The weather was beautiful and the evening sunshine flooding through the window really set off the space.

The exhibition initially came about when artist Mandy Payne - whose art is on display at Overlooked and whose paintings are inspired by Park Hill’s Brutalist architecture – approached Urban Splash.  I then got involved in January this year as an Art Consultant while  S1 Artspace supported the curation of the show.

It’s a terrific exhibition which will run for three weeks and is the first in a year long programme of arts events I have programmed at The Scottish Queen. For somewhere which was formerly known as Britain’s second most dangerous pub, our events are quite the polar opposite of what this place used to be.

Come and see the display and enjoy a pint of beer with us, we’re here until 10th May with ‘Overlooked’ then our next exhibition with Sheffield Hallam University will open on Friday 22nd May. Artist and Professor of Sculpture Keith Wilson will be leading a project-based workshop around the history and Brutalist architecture of the Park Hill site for his 1st Year Fine Art and Creative Art Practice students.  This will culminate in a work-in-progress exhibition open to the public showcasing their creative responses.

In the meantime you can read more about the current exhibition here.

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A stylish addition to Stalybridge

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

long_salon_blog1_sqWe’ve recently welcomed a new tenant at Longlands Mill in Stalybridge, a fantastic and stylish addition to the building. Here, Industry’s founder Tiffany McGlashan guest blogs about her new venture…

“I’m so excited to be launching our new hair, beauty and nail salon in my hometown of Stalybridge. We’re opening up in the mill building at Urban Splash’s Longlands scheme - a beautiful Grade II listed building which means our salon’s complete with beautiful original beams, pillars and brickwork.

“I decided to launch my own salon having spent the past two decades working in some of Manchester’s top hair salons, and have brought a team of fantastic stylists with me to Stalybridge. I know that the local people in the area will love the concept - were bringing a Manchester city centre level service without the prices.

“The help of our landlord Urban Splash has also been great and they’ve supported us throughout the process of setting up the salon. They’re keen to see a number of businesses flourish at Longlands and it’s great to be a part of their vision.

“So, if you are in the area and want to see our offering, please pop in. We’re offering 20% off services and treatments on your first visit, just call 0161 338 8331 and quote ‘Urban Splash’ when you book. We are also hosting an event on 2nd May at which we’ll have a catwalk show, live DJ and matrix goodie bag - all are welcome!”


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More new commercial tenants

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015


Many people think ‘loft apartments’ or ‘ground breaking housing projects’ when asked what Urban Splash develop, but we have a huge commercial portfolio too, one million sq. ft. and growing by the day! So it’s great to make announcements about recent letting successes on our commercial space right across the country.

Our space is bursting with some great businesses including our latest tenants who’ve between them taken 9,000 sq ft of space at schemes like Royal William Yard in Plymouth, Ducie House in Manchester and Slater Studios in Liverpool.


Below is a list of all of the new tenants who’ve joined us, take a look at the links and learn more about this great collection of businesses…

Wildwood restaurant have moved to Royal William Yard and our existing tenant WWA has expanded its space

Hair Industry has opened at Longlands

HE Simm, Intex Systems and JDA Liverpool have taken space at our various schemes in Liverpool’s Ropewalks district

Made by Jam Limited have moved to Mersey House

And finally, Wild Business Radio, Leesa Sleep Limited, Heaney Watson, Left Media and Vedo have all taken space at Ducie House

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We’ve started on site at Stubbs

April 20th, 2015 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Paul Jones


We’ve now started work on site at Stubbs Mill – our newest commercial development in Manchester.

The interesting looking building was once a machine works which assembled machinery for the cotton mills in and around Ancoats. Disused for over ten years, it is now being transformed into 30,000 sq ft of workspaces situated alongside the Ashton Canal and close to the New Islington tram stop.

It’s a scheme which reinforces our commercial portfolio - many people think we’re just residential developers but we’ve already got more than 1million sq ft of office, retail and leisure space around the UK. Stubbs and other future developments will grow this even further…

The building is also the next exciting development at New Islington – our vast site on the Northern fringe of Manchester city centre. There we’ve already got more than 10,000 sq ft of commercial space occupied by tenants like FabLabFloat Level and the Little Learning Ladder Nursery.  There are also 142 homes in Chips, the Cotton Field Park, a Marina, a health centre and the New Islington Free School. We’re also in the process of adding the first hoUSes there – our revolutionary housing concept which we’re launching in Manchester this summer.

So if you’re a business in Manchester and are looking for a unique and exciting place to base your company, drop me a line. Or you can read what the press had to say about our start on site using the links below:

Manchester Evening News

About MCR


Place North West

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My 22nd MIPIM

April 13th, 2015 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

mipim_sqLife’s back to normal now the Easter break is over and I’ve finally recovered from MIPIM earlier in the month.

Here’s a look back at the key event in the international property calendar…

Another year done at MIPIM; the property industry’s annual chance to descend on Cannes.

This year was my 22nd MIPIM; it’s hosted in the South of France and is a chance to do business, make new contacts, initiate deals and have a bit of fun - what’s not to like!

It felt serious this year, and was not the ‘freshers week for surveyors’ I’d feared. As ever, I came away invigorated by the work people in the industry are doing and am now full of new ideas, new connections and perhaps a little too much Rosé!

One of the best parts for me is my post MIPIM BBQ on the Friday. It started as a very quiet wind down for me and a few friends at my house, but since seems to have developed its own energy! Thank you again to all who came along. Rather than try and put it into words, I’ll leave it to the bloggers below to share their experiences of the day with you…

John Forbes: “I did get to go to what is undoubtedly the best party at MIPIM - the annual Friday barbecue at Tom Bloxham’s villa in Tourrettes sur Loup. Not only do I get to turn up in sweaty lycra after cycling up the unfeasibly steep hill to the house, I get to rub shoulders with architects and other talented people, which for a mere beancounter makes for an uplifting end to MIPIM. Tom’s villa, Maison Bulle, is also a structural marvel.”

Nick Riley’s blog The Life of Riley“The house was an incredible experience. I’ve never seen anything like it and it inspired me as an Architect. It’s proof that anything is possible (or “Tout est Possible” as Lovag would say).”

Phil Coffey for his Architects Journal blog: “1am at the Bloxham house. What goes to Tom’s stays at Tom’s. But it’s fair to say that, as an architect who considers that architecture can change people’s lives for the better, this place is inspirational. A place made from the proceeds of a transformation of a down and out city (my home town of Manchester), the refurbishment of iconic buildings and the enthusiasm, skill and the sheer ballsy nature of its owner - it is a place we can all learn from. I’m a lucky man to be able to experience it but it remains the main reason MIPIM is so important to me. For all the money and the apparent carelessness of the construction industry this place shows that you can care about people, place and culture and make money for your investors; if only everyone had the same brilliance to pull it off. Back to London on Monday full of intent to make a difference. Checking out.”

Back at my desk in Manchester it all seems a long time ago and a long way away…

If you are planning to attend MIPIM next year, take a look at my old blog of MIPIM top tips which originally featured in the Architects Journal, they’ll help you sail through the event in 2016.

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Creating ‘fabulous environments’!

April 9th, 2015 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Nathan Cornish


I recently received a lovely email from a lady living in Plymouth who took the time to write to us and tell us what she thought about the work we’ve done at the city’s Royal William Yard.

Letters like these really do put a smile on my face; we worked so hard to retain the heritage of the area and its integral to the whole scheme, so it’s great when people share their memories of what was there and what it has now become.

As she mentions in her correspondence, our next challenge in Plymouth will be working on the Civic Centre, you can read more about what we’re planning here.

In the meantime, you can read an excerpt of the letter below.


Dear Mr Cornish,

I come from a long and continuing line of architects and quantity surveyors and grew up in Plymouth, so this comes as a big thank you. Personally, I fall on  the artistic temperament side prone to attacks of the vapours and could not draw a straight line to save my life.

As a little girl growing up in Plymouth (although not a native, father in Royal Navy) we often caught the Cremyll  foot ferry from the King Billy dockyard to walk to Rame  and picnic at Cawsand.  I can only applaud what you have done (I recognise not personally but with a team…but please take all the credit ) at the dockyard.  It is spectacular and inspiring and truly lifts my heart whenever I visit (quite frequently even though I no longer live in the area). To breathe life into old buildings without destroying the integrity and soul  as you do is so commendable and laudable.

I have connections with Manchester too – my sister and her family have lived there for years so we have all been aware  of other projects the company has undertaken and appreciate your company vision (good name too).

I remember the Civic Centre being built and the public were able to get the lift up to the top floor and “admire the views”  for many years - it is an iconic building and part of the whole post war rebuild which still causes debate….I will say all those town centre buildings  with the sun shining off them is migraine city.  I remember as a child in the 60s large areas of Plymouth still war damaged, particularly the  Drakes Circus area…  I am so thrilled to read that you will be taking on the project  and excited to see what you will do with the whole area – maintaining ponds and fountains please!   To me it is all about the  evocation of the sights and memories.

So please be suitably smug and wave this around at the next board meeting to confirm that you create fabulous environments – it’s not just about the awards (admittedly they are pretty impressive) but it’s creating spaces ordinary people like me appreciate and recognise for their brilliance.


Filed under: Mills Bakery, Plymouth, Royal William Yard, Urban Splash No comments