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“More hoUSes please…”

December 8th, 2016 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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I recently took the Secretary of State for Housing, Gavin Barwell MP, around hoUSe at New Islington.

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Mr Barwell - and representatives from the HCA - joined me onsite so I could show them the work we’d been doing in making modular homes a reality for customers in Manchester.

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It seems he’s a fan as shortly after his visit, Mr Barwell Tweeted to say “more please”; it’s another political endorsement after the former Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis, called Urban Splash a ‘prime example’.

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All our hoUSes at New Islington are completed and occupied and we told Mr Barwell all about the next hoUSes we’re creating at Irwell Riverside and Smith’s Dock. Find out more about them by watching our hoUSe video here;  you can watch hoUSe on the BBC News at 10.

Filed under: Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash, hoUSe No comments

Recent acquisitions

October 3rd, 2016 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

This past 12 months has been a good one for acquisitions and new developments for Urban Splash; and now we are looking for more.

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In October 2015, we purchased off-market 4 Canal St in Manchester from private vendors. A fully-let, 19,000 sq ft commercial building bought in partnership with Pears Group using internal resources.

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We soon followed it with the acquisition of the former Regiment pub site in Manchester’s Castlefield - a scheme which has planning permission for 44 apartments - from major listed developers. The off-market transaction was completed in just 10 days.

In December 2015, we purchased a plot of land to the south of the Walsall Canal, adjoining the award winning, new art gallery by 2016 Stirling Prize winner Caruso St John.

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And another commercial acquisition came in the form of Phoenix Mill in Ancoats, and the Church Inn, acquired on behalf of investment partner TBI2000 Investments…

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Meanwhile, we were given a chance to extend our work in Plymouth - where we’ve converted Royal William Yard into a great place to live and thriving tourist destination - by acquiring  the city’s Grade II Listed Civic Centre from Plymouth City Council. Designs are currently being worked up for the building.

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Back in the North West, we had a successful run of Summer acquisitions, first of all taking on the Barton Business Park in Eccles; an industrial investment on a 2.6-acre site acquired in a cash purchase by Urban Splash…

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We also purcahsed 4 acres of land from Salford City Council on the banks of the River Irwell where we are now on site with our next phase of hoUSe.

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And soonafter, again with our JV partner Pears, we acquired the 46,000 sq ft Office Village at Exchange Quay in Salford Quays for refurbishment and investment. The scheme was acquired from a major fund in a deal completed in just five working days.

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Most recently, we acquired Brownsfield Mill in Manchester from Town Centre Securities which will be redeveloped as part of the broader Piccadilly Basin regeneration plans. One of the last untouched mills, we’re hoping to create the city’s biggest apartments there - with hopes for lofts of upto 4,000 sq ft!

We’re still aggressively on the lookout for new buildings, investment properties Brownfield sites that we can turn into contemporary spaces where people can live, work and play so get in touch if you wish to discuss a prospective development by emailing us on developments@urbansplash.co.uk. All of the above properties were acquired on the offer terms initially agreed, using internal resources and without bank debt; something which allows us to act decisively and quickly

We’ve created more than 4,000 homes and 2 billion sq ft of workspaces in the past 20 years; here’s to creating many more.

Filed under: Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash No comments

More coverage for hoUSe

July 8th, 2016 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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I’ve really enjoyed reading all of the coverage on hoUSe recently. Blueprint Magazine have just written about the development, focusing on the customer-led design approach which sees them buy space not rooms. The article also cites our long-term aim of hoUSe becoming the ‘designer brand of voume housebuilders’.

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Estates Gazette meanwhile write that ‘next generation modular housing is on the march” and point out that hoUSe was driven by ‘DIY design’ meaning our customers configure and dictate layouts.

Both magazines are out now. Enjoy reading..!

Filed under: Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash, hoUSe No comments

hoUSe gets Wired…

June 27th, 2016 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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Great to read tech bible Wired’s view on hoUSe. Wired’s known for its dedication to reporting new trends and we’re thrilled our modular family housing is one of them!

Read more in this month’s edition or find out about the new hoUSes we’re selling at Irwell Riverside near Manchester here.

Filed under: New Islington, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash, hoUSe No comments

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We are very excited that the massive CIH Housing Conference is coming to Manchester and I am pleased to be speaking at the conference too!

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To coincide with it on 30th June, we’re inviting CIH delegates to take a trip to nearby New Islington to come and see our modular hoUSe development; we’re labelling it as ‘Open hoUSe’. It will give delegates the chance to come and see the concept up close; touching and feeling the show hoUSe and seeing the wider regeneration around New Islington.

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We’re offering a shuttle bus to New Islington on the hour every hour from Manchester Central; so either just turn up or email Chris Monkman for an appointment. Or, if you’d like to meet for a coffee at any point during the conference, please email Cathy Cunny who looks after my diary.

Our 2-minute film with George Clarke explaining the concept should whet your appetites until then and you can read more details about the concept here.

Filed under: New Islington, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash, hoUSe No comments

Read about our ‘pioneering housing concept’

May 30th, 2016 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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It’s been great reading about hoUSe in the national press recently. Our modular, family housing concept was covered in depth by The Telegraph and The Sunday Times recently, with the former calling it ‘a pioneering housing concept’.

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Meanwhile, the Sunday Times, who referred to Urban Splash as ‘the developer that rescued decaying mills and warehouses’, visited the first hoUSe site in New Islington, interviewing a purchaser and concluding that hoUSe aims to  ‘turn buyers from passive consumers into architects of their own dream homes.’

Read the full Sunday Times article below…

Bespoke new builds on a budget

Urban Splash is the developer that rescued decaying mills and warehouses, pioneered “loft living” in Britain and transformed industrial wastelands into inner-city property hotspots. Now the Manchester-based firm has a revolutionary plan for the traditional family home — reinventing the Victorian terrace, building it in a factory and allowing buyers to play an active role in the design process.

Described as “the Grand Designs experience on a budget”, Urban Splash’s latest venture — “hoUSe” — aims to turn buyers from passive consumers into the architects of their own dream homes. Whereas owners of period terraces tend to move in and start knocking down walls to suit their needs, hoUSe will allow buyers to configure their home around their lifestyle while it’s still on the drawing board.

Each one will be built and assembled in a factory near Nottingham by SIG Building Systems, 
a company that specialises in timber panel construction, then assembled on site. The whole process takes about four months — compared to six for conventional bricks and mortar.

“Loads of things we buy now are bespoke — everything from cars to trainers,” says Jonathan Falkingham, co-founder and creative director of Urban Splash. “I compare hoUSe with buying a BMW. You specify what you want, then, a couple of months later, it comes off the production line.”

HoUSe buyers can opt for two or three storeys, and can choose to have a garden home (with the living spaces on the ground floor) or a loft (with a living space on the top floor, under an exposed pitched roof). They can decide to go fully open-plan or have more traditional segregated rooms, including up to five bedrooms.

There are various configurations of kitchens, bathrooms, storage, floor coverings and furnishings. And, because the walls are made from wooden panels (covered in a range of protective materials, including magnesia board, sealant and insulation), and those dividing rooms are not supporting walls, owners can easily add rooms as their family expands, or remove them when their offspring move out. In collaboration with architects at Shedkm, Urban Splash has taken pains to keep ceilings lofty and windows large, with pop-out windows — a modern, square version of a bay — on the top floor. The company also offers 1,000 sq ft of living space (or 1,500 sq ft for a three-storey home), compared with the typical 800 sq ft for new-builds.

“We think builders are way behind the curve, because nothing has really changed for 50 years,” Falkingham says. The architect founded Urban Splash with Tom Bloxham, an entrepreneur, in 1993, winning a string of Riba awards before almost going out of business when the housing market collapsed in 2008.

“The recession gave us pause for reflection,” he says. “What we saw was that if you’ve got a lot of money and you want a lovely house, you haven’t got a problem. It’s at the other end of the market where there isn’t much choice. There’s no flexibility, poor specification and a fixation on rooms, not space.”

Prices, inevitably, will depend on location, but the first hoUSe scheme is being built in New Islington, an area just north of Manchester’s city centre that has seen intense regeneration in the past decade. Prices start at £200,000 for a two-storey home, including a garden and parking, and about £300,000 for a three-storey house. So far, 14 of the latter have been completed — and all 43 properties in the development have been sold.

Planning permission has just been granted for a further 34 units at Smith’s Dock, in North Shields, on Tyneside, as well as 72 homes at Irwell Riverside, in Salford. Prices for those developments will be released later this year.

Andy Smith, 29, is just the sort of savvy buyer Urban Splash had in mind when it began working on hoUSe. The fresh-faced entrepreneur moved into his property in New Islington at the beginning of the year and has been busy adapting it to his needs, adding an ensuite wet room alongside his bedroom/office on the third storey.

“I like the size and the fact that you can do what you want with it,” says Smith, founder of From the Fields, the events company behind music festivals such as Kendal Calling and Forgotten Fields. “I looked at older properties, but I couldn’t find anything in my budget — or, if I did, there was a problem with subsidence or something. And there wasn’t the space.”

Smith agrees that there is a gap in the market for people like him, who would like their own home, but aren’t ready to sacrifice their lively urban lifestyle for a conventional suburban new-build. With the assistance of the government’s Help to Buy scheme for first-time purchasers, he could afford the £305,000 asking price. He even had the odd experience of watching his hoUSe being delivered.

“It was amazing,” he recalls. “I happened to be walking past, and I saw the bottom storey being put in position. I popped to a coffee shop, then, on the way back, the whole thing was there.”

It’s tempting to make disparaging comparisons with Ikea flatpacks, but Urban Splash insists that this is to misunderstand the process. “People already make houses like this, but on site,” Falkingham says. “We’re not doing anything radical in that sense — it’s established technology. We’re just building it in a factory. And the production standards are much, much higher than on a site.”

Rather than the Swedish purveyor of flatpack furniture, Urban Splash prefers comparisons with Vitra, a Swiss firm that manufactures works by many internationally renowned furniture designers. It’s all part of a long-term vision to become “a sort of designer brand of housebuilding”. For its next “product”, called Mansion House, the company plans to take the Georgian terrace and adapt it for modern living.

“We started out with this really simple proposition — to make well-designed, affordable housing,” Falkingham says. “I don’t think we’re trying to upset the apple cart. We just want to offer something different, because we think there is a demand for it.”

Filed under: Manchester, New Islington, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash, hoUSe No comments

Launching hoUSe

April 14th, 2016 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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It’s been great to see hoUSe getting so much coverage recently.

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Lots of journalists, from around the country have been writing about the concept; Wallpaper* for example  noted the hoUSes are “no diminutive Victorian pastiche…”.

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Meanwhile, fellow design and architecture critics Dezeen who called the scheme “a pioneering housing project”.

The press in Manchester meanwhile - home to the first hoUSes at New Islington - were equally as complementary; About MCR noting the: “innovative design template” and I Love MCR suggesting they are for “house-proud, design-conscious people“.  The Sunday Times also included New Islington and hoUSe one of the 20 ‘hippest places to live‘ in the UK!

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Read all of the hoUSe press coverage here and register your interest for more houses that we’re bringing to New Islington, Irwell Riverside in Salford and Smith’s Dock in North Shields soon…

Filed under: New Islington, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash No comments

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Read my latest interview with Cheshire Magazine, in which I talk about being in business, our plans for hoUSe and my hats..!

The full article features on page 34.

Filed under: Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash, hoUSe No comments

How I started in business before Urban Splash

February 2nd, 2016 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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I was recently invited to be the first guest in the new IKON Digital series. Watch what I had to say about my career, being an entrepreneur and getting started by clicking on the video above…

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hoUSe: according to the Housing Minister

January 21st, 2016 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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I read with great interest a recent interview that the Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, gave to Construction Manager magazine, in which he referred to hoUSe as an example of good custom build housing.

His comments come following a site visit with me and the HCA last summer; a wonderful opportunity to show him how we’re helping solve the housing crisis.

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Read his full comments here or the excerpt below.

Lewis was also enthusiastic about the wider adoption of custom build, where buyers have the latitude to determine the look and layout of new homes. He  referred to a July visit to developer Urban Splash’s “House” project in New Islington, where customers can select the size and distribution of space thanks to the modular construction methods used.

“What really struck me at Urban Splash, was the speed of delivery, but also the customisation. The only thing that’s fixed is the outer walls; internally you can lay it out how you want. It’s about speed and therefore choice for the customer.”

Filed under: New Islington, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash, hoUSe No comments
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