Muscling in at Fort Dunlop

Thursday, March 20th, 2014


Today marks the one month anniversary since I launched my new 247 Gym here at Fort Dunlop in Birmingham – and what a month it’s been!

It’s the fifth gym we’ve opened and follows our other centres in Kidderminster, Fareham, Portsmouth and another nearby gym in Birmingham. We already have an amazing 15,000 members – 2,000 of those at Fort Dunlop – so it’s been great to meet so many of you visiting already.

I think the gym’s been so well received because of the mix of fitness activities we offer; our gym hosts a range of classes, including Body Pump, Body Combat and Body Attack. Customers at Fort Dunlop like these classes so much that we are already adding additional classes to our timetable to satisfy demand. The demand also means we’re soon opening a beauty therapy and sports injury clinic here. Ladies working in the building also like our women’s only gym too!

Our pricing structure’s also been really well received; there is a contract option for £17.95 per month or a more flexible non-contract option at £19.95 per month.

And – the clue is in the name – we are open 24 hours a day so it suits the plethora of businesses at Fort Dunlop who operate at different hours and may want to work out at unconventional times of day.

We’d love to hear from any organisations at Fort Dunlop who’ve yet to come and visit the gym – and any individuals or businesses from the local area. If you’d like a tour of the space, then please drop me a line! If you want a taster first though, watch our new promo video here.

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Realising my dream…

Monday, March 3rd, 2014


I was ecstatic this month to confirm a deal that will allow me to open my brand new nursery at Fort Dunlop in Birmingham.

The building’s bustling and from the second you walk in you see there’s a happy and vibrant atmosphere. It’s full to the brim with businesses so commercially I know it’s the right location. There are hundreds of parents here whose lives I hope to make easier with the nursery.

Our deal’s been announced just a month after the news that a gym operator has also moved to the Fort, so it’s great for all of us working in the building that there are now so many amenities on site.

So, if you’re a parent running your business from Fort Dunlop, or working in or near to the building, I’d love to welcome your kids to Letty’s Little Learners. Drop me a line to hear more…

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Awards nomination for our Stairway to Devon

February 13th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Emily Handslip


Our stunning stair structure at Royal William Yard (often dubbed the ‘Stairway to Devon’!) has been shortlisted for a Civic Trust Award.

It is one of 79 projects from around the country that have made the shortlist and we are thrilled about it.

The staircase is a wonderful structure, it was designed by our architects Gillespie Yunnie and has been celebrated lots in the design community.

Dezeen, the oracle of good design, last year featured an article on it; their story was peppered with beautiful imagery, showing it’s not just functional, but great to look at and a contemporary addition to the historic Yard buildings.

We’ll find out how the staircase has faired at an awards ceremony on March 7th and I’ll report back straight away!

Read what the Plymouth Herald had to say about this news in this week’s paper.

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Life on a barge

February 10th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE


I recently came across this article about canal boating written by a boat owner, Doug Field who is resident at our very own New Islington Marina. It was published in the  in the Times Literary Supplement, not I fear my regular reading material!

In the article, Doug tells his endearing story of life on a narrowboat and I thought it was something worth sharing. An excerpt of the article is below and, should it inspire you to take up life on the water, you can find out more about mooring at New Islington here


“I bought my first narrow boat, Hedgehog, on a romantic whim. Bored with city-centre living and bowed down with furniture and the anxieties of academic life and trying to get my book published, I purchased the first boat that I viewed, a mid-1970s, thirty-six foot wooden- top vessel with a leaky roof. Overnight, Ellie and I gave away most of our possessions, swapping a spacious oak-floored apartment in the centre of Manchester for a cramped boat with a rotten sole. I blame years of reading books that celebrate the power and mystery of water. After reading Herman Hesse’s novel, Siddhartha, in my teens, I only wanted to become a ferryman. Like Ishmael, “I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world”. I dreamed of discovering, like Eliot’s narrator in Four Quartets, whether the river was truly “a strong brown god – sullen, untamed and intractable”.

“The day after buying the boat we found out that Ellie was pregnant. Eliot’s line that the river’s “rhythm was present in the nursery bedroom” resonated for the first time. It dawned on me that nearly all the literature that had inspired me to live on a boat was about rivers and seas, not canals. The only book I’d read in recent years about our inland water- ways was Lee Rourke’s novel Canal, essen- tially a book about boredom. Most accounts of boating life celebrate male camaraderie, eschewing domestic life. “Let your boat of life be light”, Jerome K. Jerome’s narrator urges, “packed with only what you need.” This is sound advice for three men setting off on a jaunt on the Thames but less relevant to our situation. We needed to buy nappies and figure out how to charge a breast pump.

“After a brutal first winter, moored at New Islington Marina in Manchester, with only a small wood burner to keep us warm, we began to get accustomed to boating life. There is something unhurried about living on a boat, even in a city centre. We became attuned to the seasons in new ways, drinking in the first sweet smell of wood burning on neighbouring boats; we felt at ease as the rain lashed down on the roof, bringing the metronomic drip of water into a tin can. We were happy to be woken by swans as they tapped on the hull for bread. In an era of “bedroom tax” protests, inflated house prices and urban isolation, life on narrow boats offers another rhythm for life, a counterpoint to Raymond Williams’s weary treatise on con- sumer society in Towards 2000, where he calls attention to “the pursuit of self-determined private purposes”. Williams singles out the car, with its “windowed shell”, to illustrate his concerns about the decline of social relations in contemporary Britain. I lived in flats where I never met my neighbours. On the canals, it is hard to avoid them. We were moored up next to painters, academics, chefs, anarchists, an ex-con, trapeze artists and an engineer. They seemed to share a camaraderie that eclipsed vocational and political differences.

“Wilfred was born in March, and within weeks it was clear that we were going to need a bigger boat. He didn’t seem to mind being bathed in the sink or sleeping in a hammock, but we were outgrowing the space… Intoxicated by the romance of buying a new boat, we overlooked the details of the voyage back to Manchester: 255 miles, 132 locks, fifty-eight moveable bridges, fifty-five aqueducts and three tunnels. We would have to navigate tidal rivers with sunken islands, ease past scores of narrow bridges and squeeze through locks built for much smaller boats.

“As we pulled into Manchester, we encountered an old friend who has been living on the canal for years, often without electricity and running water. We bought oak-leaf wine from a boat next door and sat outside in comfortable silence. I glanced at my phone and saw that I had received an email from my publishers, finally offering a contract for my book. As I rose to fill our glasses, the phone shot out of my hand and into the silty waters. I sat down in quiet relief and opened another bottle.”

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Perfect Plymouth…

February 4th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Emily Handslip


Royal William Yard is officially a cover star as this month a beautiful image of our historic development adorns the front of regional glossy magazine ‘Devon Life‘.

The Yard features prominently in their feature on the best of the city and highlights include their recommendation of Le Bistrot Pierre as one of the best places to eat in Plymouth. The journalist describes it as having ‘a great atmosphere and delicious food,”.

In another section of the feature they highlight our Good Food market. Held at the Yard on the first Sunday of each month it’s described as ‘an absolute must-visit for foodies.”

The magazine also goes on to give readers a glimpse into the history of the site’s redevelopment and the vibrant place it’s now become saying “… a former Royal Navy base which is steadily transforming… Highlights include Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Canteen and Deli, the Royal William Bakery, a cafe, shop and baking school…”

We love it and if you haven’t visited yet think that you will too! To register your interest or enquire about future commercial opportunities just drop me an email.

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Introducing New Hall

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014


One of the main priorities for me in 2014 is letting out our new commercial space at New Hall in Fazakerley.

To assist, we’ve today appointed national property consultants GVA to market the development which is just on the outskirts of Liverpool. It’s a beautiful development and bears lots of features from its original use as a Victorian children’s home built in 1888.

Now, the historic collection of 26 Grade II cottages are now modern workspaces, some ready to occupy and some of which are available for redevelopment.

As our marketing campaign for the spaces kicks off, I think that we’ll attract a great mix of businesses as the cottages lend themselves to a wide variety of uses where new businesses will join a nursery, health sector and other public sector organisations who already operate from New Hall.

Cottages range from 2,573 sq ft to 11,797 sq ft and are available to lease or purchase so if you are interested please get in touch as I’d be more than happy to show you around! For further details on other commercial spaces available from Urban Splash, click here.

Read more on this on the North West Insider site

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Happy new year!

December 27th, 2013 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE


2013 was our 20th birthday and it’s been a real pleasure reading the messages of goodwill that have come in following our celebrations late last year. Below are a selection of our favourite messages and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2014 holds. We’ve lots of exciting things planned and I hope 2014 is good for all of you. Thanks again guys…

@Atelier3Tim: “Congratulations on 20 years! Thanks for raising the bar”

@OV_Group: “Wishing you the happiest of birthdays. What an amazing achievement. Lots more to come…”

@altitudedesign: “Congrats @urban_splash. Proud to have our business in such a beautiful place @royalwilliamyd”

@olearyjames: “An incredible track record”

@loobstery: “Love this recap! Used to live in Britannia Mills and partied in Concert Square in 90s. #aceness”

@instruct: “A very touching newsletter celebrating 20 years of @urban_splash. Proud to have worked for them.”

@taguemedia: “Fair play to @urban_splash, been a battle recently but 20 years is not bad going at all…”

@gillespieyunnie: “Happy birthday @urban_splash. Here’s to many more projects together!”

@emilyjhandslip: “Proud to be part of it @urban_splash!”

@lathamstweet: “Congratulations to @urban_splash on celebrating 20 years. Pleasure to work with you.”

@lisaashurst: “Crumbs. I just got a little bit emotional reading @urban_splash news… Well done on twenty years!”

@paul_gosling: “That history of the last 20 years is INSANE!”

@yannickloue: “very honoured to have my business being part of this stunning project. Well done.”

@RWYResident: “Congratulations. @RoyalWilliamYd is your greatest achievement.”

@davidajennings: “huge congrats to Urban Splash on 20 years - and still original and fresh.”

@midcenturymag: “Inspiring stuff Tom!”

@BDSPhotos: “We shall leave this city not less but greater, better and more beautiful than it was left to us”. Manchester transformed @TomBloxhamMBE”

@RiefaGreenRoofYou guys are Bad assed, Congratulations, thanks for doing the Midland in Morecambe

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One month’s rent free at Pattern House

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013


For a limited time we’re offering one month’s rent free to new tenants at Pattern House.

The development is in Stalybridge. It’s a juxtaposition of city style living but with beautiful countryside views thanks to the nearby Peak District. Back in the day the area was home to a cotton mill and as we’ve come to see many a time, the original mill was left derelict for a long time. We moved in and transformed it into a mix of beautiful homes brimming with Victorian features. Then we built a contrasting new building - known as Pattern House - opposite which has lovely floor-to-ceiling windows out of which you can see those great views. Some of the homes are duplex too. It’s at that building that we are offering the one month’s rent free!


Pattern House is in a great spot. Stalybridge train station is a couple of minutes’ walk and the regular trains direct to Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool mean it’s be perfect for commuters too.

The offer will run for a limited period only and is available to all new customers who agree to a 12-month tenancy and terms and conditions apply. We’d be happy to show you around if you want to know more; just call us on 0333 666 9999.

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Festive Fort fun…

December 8th, 2013 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Karen Perry


T’is the season to be jolly, and we certainly are after confirming that the first ever Christmas market is going to be hosted at Fort Dunlop in Birmingham.

The market will take place this Wednesday (11th December) from 11am until 3pm and all of our tenants, staff and visitors to the area are welcome.

There’ll be a festive feast on offer, with stalls including a hog roast, crepes, Indian cuisine, mince pies and Prosecco and of course mulled wine.

We’ll be celebrating local craftspeople too with stalls selling candles, books, crystal and scarves and gloves (which you’ll need judging by the current temperatures in the Midlands!).

So pop the date in your diary and I look forward to seeing you there…


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20 years of Urban Splash

December 2nd, 2013 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Jonathan Falkingham MBE


Amazingly it is now 20 years since Tom and I first set up Urban Splash and its been quite a journey.  We founded the business in the midst of the last recession when the whole property industry was in the doldrums.

We were obviously much younger – quite naïve and full of creative ideas about what to do with amazing old buildings in Liverpool and Manchester.  Our naivety, youthful optimism and passion for good design have been vital components to our success. At every turn we were told by seasoned property professionals that what we were proposing simply wouldn’t work but we ploughed on regardless believing that if we created homes and workspaces that we’d want to buy there would be other likeminded people out there.  In effect we were designing with ourselves in mind.

This was very unusual in an industry that is naturally cautious and conservative, basing its investment decisions on historic trends rather than future markets, this is what has really set us apart.

20 years on we still believe in this philosophy and it’s at the heart of our exciting new plans for the next decade…


1993: One drunken night two friends got together…
The Urban Splash masterplan was dreamt up over a few (too many) beers way back in ‘93 when business brain Tom teamed up with award-winning architect Jonathan to launch one of the UK’s most exciting property businesses.

1994: … And nine months later the first loft apartment was born
The first apartments we completed were at Concert Square in Liverpool. With open plan layouts, high ceilings and an emphasis on original features, it was way ahead of its time and transformed attitudes to city living.

1995: …As was Liverpool’s first public square in 100 years
Concert Square was groundbreaking in many ways; our first mixed-use scheme, a new destination for Liverpool, and the first of our projects to win a RIBA award.

1996: Encouraged, we bought more unloved buildings to transform
Our success at sexily repurposing industrial heritage was gaining momentum. Manchester’s Smithfield Building - ‘the Harrods of the North’ - was the latest neglected treasure to be rescued from the bulldozers.

1997: Yet the Prince still wouldn’t swap his palace for penthouse
News from the North hit London. Taking an interest in our work, HRH dropped by to see what we were up to. Tom and Jonathan turned royal escorts to give him a tour of the Collegiate in Liverpool.

1998: We proved culture wasn’t confined to the capital
St Peter’s Church became the Holy Grail of the dining scene with the launch of Liverpool’s coolest restaurant Alma de Cuba - complete with iconic art installation Tu Es Petrus (The Crucifixion of St Peter) by Norbert Attard.

1999: … and we rubbed shoulders with architecture’s elite
Huddled in the House of Lords, we engaged some of the greatest minds in the architectural world to design our latest building. Timber Wharf in Manchester would be our first attempt at tackling a brand new approach to housing.

2000: We kicked off the millennium with a big idea
Back at the drawing board; Will Alsop’s masterplan for Manchester’s Millennium Community at New Islington. From this initial sketch, our vision to create a new canal quarter has come to life with homes, a school, health centre, marina and more…

2001: We went on to celebrate a century of awards
The accolades kept flowing and we’d now notched up over 100 awards. Highlights included several RIBA and Housing Design Awards, and not forgetting more attention from the royals with an MBE for Tom.

2002: …and we were going to need a bigger mantelpiece
We swiftly moved the whole Urban Splash team over to Castlefield, and from our new command centre we planned an ambitious expansion!

2003: We donned our hats and went to Graz
A decade of Urban Splash, plus Tom’s 40th birthday, provided the perfect excuse for a big celebration, so we jetted off on a Christmas trip to Graz - 2003’s City of Culture. On Christmas Eve, just a few days after returning from Austria and perhaps still drunk, we bought the Midland Hotel.

2004: While back at home, our office space was looking the business
Hotels, headquarters and our host of commercial properties dominated this year; not least the Matchworks in Liverpool, our first ever business park.

2005: Fort Dunlop was the place to be
Our attentions turned to Birmingham’s iconic Fort Dunlop, and during construction we delighted women everywhere by covering the entire building with a giant Adidas advert featuring David Beckham. We never tyre of a party, and on completion we celebrated in style.

2006: At Moho in Manchester we delivered our 1,000th home
We raced past another milestone as Moho made a grand entrance. These modular apartments were the first of their kind, built off-site to exacting standards then delivered and dropped into place as complete dwellings.

2007: Meanwhile, back at the office it was a brand new look
Things were going good, there was surely nothing looming on the horizon to darken our days. So we decided to splash out on a brand new look for the business, including a new font and logo that would take us into the next chapter…

2008: Which we launched just in time for the crash. Oh f#@k!
And that next chapter needs no introduction. A financially catastrophic time that challenged a freshly revamped Urban Splash. Undeterred, we put our minds towards finding new ways of doing business.

2009: But when the going gets tough, the tough get going
Our team pulled together to see us through 2009. Our group board including Simon, Nathan and Julian helped drive the business and secure funds from the Government’s new Kickstart scheme, helping us get back on site and stuck into building new homes.

2010: …And good design proved recession-proof
Those schemes came to fruition and the market for good design and great ideas remained strong. The most in-demand being at Albert Mill in Manchester… the loft lives on.

2011: People still flocked to our schemes
This year saw us complete 500 homes! Park Hill was the highlight, and as well as welcoming 1,000 people to our launch, we hosted the National Youth Theatre and the RIBA Stirling Prize after-party.

2012:…to discover hidden treasures
A decade in the making, Royal William Yard stole the spotlight this year. The marina came to life as Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, the Royal William Bakery, Prezzo, Wagamama and Le Vignoble helped us reinvigorate this historic former naval yard.

2013: By royal appointment, our 350th award from the palace
A year peppered with highlights including an MBE for Jonathan, Park Hill on the Stirling Prize shortlist, a big deal with Places for People, and the launch of the New Islington Free School.


The present…
Our favourite quote still inspires us and next year is packed with a host of new projects - look out for the launch of our new concept house! You ain’t seen nothing yet.

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