Just stumbled across Dezeen, not only does it feature a nice article on our Chips scheme at New Islington but I think this will be a real classic magazine.

Magazines for me are symbolic of different periods of my life. As a teen in the mid 1970s NME was the one I’d look through for punk gigs, or for buying stay-press trousers from the classifieds at the back or eagerly picking up what was happening with my pop star heroes. Every Thursday I couldn’t wait to get my hands on its dirty newsprint.

As I got older into my late teens, The Face took over as the magazine of choice; filled with its glossy pictures, snaps of Paul Weller’s latest hairstyles or reviews of new bars and clubs which I aspired to visit.

The next iconic magazine was probably Wallpaper. When it first came out there was a real freshness for beautiful buildings, shops or objects to buy and a reverence for lost and forgotten towns and cities. Not just trendy places like London, Paris and New York but obscure Icelandic airports, Scandinavian hotels and Latin American shops.

Perhaps now Dezeen is the magazine for today. Its free(!), clean, easy to get in your inbox and there are images of wonderfully designed objects, buildings and things from right across the world – most of which I haven’t seen before.

If I had to make a criticism of it, it’s a lack of critical comment – or indeed any comment – but I can live with that. It’s a bit like the old Smash hits, great pictures, simply laid out and easy to consume.

Thanks to Marcus Fairs and his team. I hope that this magazine might have the same impact on me as NME, The Face or Wallpaper did many years ago. I love people who try new things.

Filed under: Chips, Manchester, New Islington, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash - tags: , , , , , ,

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I recently met Mark Allan CEO of Unite student housing. An impressive guy – apart from upsetting me because of his youth (I remember when I was always the youngest person in each meeting).

I was really impressed how Mark and Nick Porter before him have transformed student housing from either a cottage industry dominated by individuals looking to make a quick buck or distracted academic institutions whose core function was teaching, not property.

Unite have taken the industry, professionalised and consolidated it, produced a brand and got institutional investment into student housing all in a relatively short space of time.

Today the private residential market is showing some of those same characteristics that student housing showed 20 years ago. It’s a fragmented industry dominated by individual buy to let investors, with a mass of small letting agents of differing quality, little emphasis on customer service or brands, and little institutional investment.

Taking the lead of Unite, I believe in the next few years there’s a real opportunity to create brands, professionalise and consolidate the private, rented property market and attract institutional investment. I hope Urban Splash has a role to play in this.


Urban Splash has a rental portfolio of more than 300 properties around the country.

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2 comments to Do we need to professionalise the residential lettings market? by Tom Bloxham MBE

  1. Kate Amin says:

    Thanks for your comments Amanda.
    We’ve recently amended the font on our website so it’s darker and easier to read (we’d had similar feedback from a couple of other people too). Hope it helps!
    Kate Amin
    Brand Director, US

  2. Amanda Baillieu says:

    until we stop believing that property is a good investment you won’t be able to change the rental resi market. ten per cent of all mortgages are held by buy to let lanlords - a decade ago it was only 1per cent, much of this property is empty or under occupied. it ’s not just fragmented, as you say, it’s a mess, and the Gov should never have allowed the market in second homes to grow unchallanged and allow crap flats ( not yours I hasten to add) to be built simply because of greed, and the easy availability of cheap credit.
    Amanda Baillieu
    Editor, BD
    ps this is a very un-user friendly blog. does the type have to be quite so pale ?

The perils of working late

June 10th, 2009 [ 1 comment ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

Much has been written about the stress executives face working long hours however, the other night I discovered a new peril of late night working…

Having been working quietly away in the office, I packed up ready to go. On walking into the main office space the burglar alarm went off, “oh b*****s!” I thought “everyone must’ve left the office and set the alarm…”

I then raced to the alarm panel to try and reset it. Unfortunately my sprinting wasn’t up to it and before I got there the super deluxe security anti thief (or on this occasion anti chairman) deterrent starting blowing out white smoke whose purpose is to disorientate intruders and prevent them from seeing anything of value. On this occasion though it had the affect of disorientating yours truly preventing me from calling for help. It also then set off the smoke detectors on the fire alarm system!

I eventually managed to disable the intruder alarm, figure out the bells still ringing were the fire alarm system, disable that and secure the premises…

Working long hours can definitely be stressful!

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1 comments to The perils of working late

  1. julian hakes says:


    When Cari and I landed our first major commission from Proctor and Gamble in 95 we used to work late in their new Broock lands Head quarters office.

    Only problem was all the lights were on motion sensors to cut down on energy use. Which means late working was occasionally interupted by a quick sprint around the floor so you could still see to work. Leave it too late and it was like being in a horror movie as the lights switch off in sequence across the office.

    Julian Hakes

    Hakes Associates Architects London

Chips and Rent to HomeBuy

June 8th, 2009 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Shona King

Met up with some of our partners for a meeting over at Chips, New Islington yesterday to show off our new apartments, they all loved them! Took some pics of the views, I wish we had brought our deck chairs to sit out in the terrace to catch the sun whilst it hung around in Manchester. A nice cold beer would have topped it off too, however the meeting could have turned out to be a little less productive!

Our Rent to HomeBuy offer at Chips is certainly generating a lot of interest. Not surprising really as it’s a great way to be able to save money on rent and build up a deposit by paying 80% of the market rent. Then you can buy shares of your apartment from a minimum of 25% of the apartment price until you fully own it. At the meeting we were chatting about the Homes and Communities Agency’s ‘Key Event’ ( ) they are hosting at Urbis on Monday 22nd June to help people understand how they can own their own home. We’ll be there serving up Chips (sorry not the greasy sort) along with other developers, independent financial advisors and lenders. It’s free to attend and there will be plenty of advice on hand, definitely one for the diary if you’re looking to buy a home.

New Islington, Manchester

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May 28th, 2009 [ 3 comments ]

Will Alsop serves up his views on Chips

by Will Alsop

Chips, New Islington, Manchester

This week the Architects Journal published a long article on Chips, our apartment building in New Islington. I am pleased to report that they liked it and recognised the tremendous effort that everyone has put into this area. It is sad that the bar is not occupied at the moment as it represents one of the central features of the master plan. i.e: to be able to sit near your home in the centre of the city with a glass of something in your hand and look South over a strip of water and observe people.

We have all tried to create a place where anyone will be happy to sit and do nothing. I think we are well on our way to achieving this and when we have I hope you will come and join me and Tom to watch the world from a cosy urban retreat.

Will Alsop, Alsop Architects

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3 comments to Will Alsop serves up his views on Chips

  1. Albion-worker says:

    Well done Urban Splash. You’ve done it on this side of town too. Chips is fab! Thanks for putting a big fat stamp on the area. I too look forward to a local pint. A bar is much needed around here. Could also do with your attention to detail and high management standards too.

  2. Leanne Forshaw, Urban Splash says:

    More interesting Chips reading… Today Dezeen have posted this blog about the building:

  3. tom bloxham says:

    Looking forward to that pint with you in the bar, Will ,(preferably of decent wine !), hope to get ground floor taken soon ,we have a number of possibilities we are working on ,but if anyone out there has some wonderful ideas give us a shout!

Royalty welcomed at Fort Dunlop, Birmingham

May 27th, 2009 [ 1 comment ] [ Add comment ]
by Leanne Forshaw

Fort Dunlop

Yesterday we welcomed royalty at Fort Dunlop as Princess Anne visited the scheme.

She was there to officially launch the new offices of BPM (Media) - home to the Birmingham Post and Mail newspapers. They’re a great tenant and have added another dimension to the mix of people already working at the building. There are retailers, like home furnishing store Dwell, art gallery Snap and bars and restaurants such as the trendy Glass Lounge. There’s also office space fit for any sized business; BPM’s offices are fifty times the size of our smallest suites - that’s how diverse the offering is! Since the building’s completion in 2006 the building has been a great success, being more than 95% let since the day we completed.

Yesterday’s event tops off an exciting few months for us at the Fort where we’ve welcomed many a celebrity including popstar Jamelia (who was there to film an advert), Roy Wood from Slade (whose famous “I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday” track dominates the festive playlists every December), TV presenter Charlie Dimmock and Birmingham based Reggae legends UB40 who used the iconic Fort Dunlop for a photo shoot.

For more details and pics of Princess Anne’s visit, see the Birmingham Mail website.

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1 comments to Royalty welcomed at Fort Dunlop, Birmingham

  1. Rob Ford says:

    A bit late I know, but I do hope you didn’t ask Roy Wood about his time with Slade. The Move, Wizard or ELO maybe. However it’s nice to see the building given a new lease of life.

May 15th, 2009 [ 1 comment ]

Urban Splash and Staying Cool

by Tracey Stephenson, Staying Cool

Le Corbusier Exhibition, Barbican, London

Not that anyone needs an excuse to go to that marvel of modern buildings, the Barbican …but if you do, you have but a few days to catch the Le Corbusier exhibition before it disappears on May 24th.

This is a great little show that documents the pioneering designer-painter-grand architect’s rather prolific works from childhood through to his L’Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles.  (Shouldn’t everyone have a two-way hatch where the baker and milkman can push their goods straight into your kitchen?)

The only disappointing thing about L’Unité d’Habitation is that there isn’t enough about it in the exhibition.

Indeed we pretty much have this 50s concrete masterpiece to thank for bringing Staying Cool and Urban Splash together four years ago. Arguably the original mixed use development - a term that seems to be applied willy nilly to all development schemes these days - some 50 years on, the building remains one of the most sought after residential addresses in Marseilles as well as a popular destination for tourists and a favourite with business people seeking somewhere stylish for a short stay. Do go if you’re down that way.

Serviced apartments, like some of those in L’Unité are a relatively new concept in Britain but are well established abroad. These are what we’ve been creating in partnership with Urban Splash - ever since we bought our first shell apartment in Manchester. Urban Splash design with Staying Cool style.

Our inspirational architect would surely approve of that. Non?

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1 comments to Urban Splash and Staying Cool

  1. FredJouldd says:

    Thanks, good article.

I came back from a bank holiday away to watch the Park Hill BBC2 “Romancing the Stone” documentary on iPlayer (I can’t believe I’ve started using the iPlayer, blogging and joining Twitter all in the same week – the 21st Century has finally has caught up with me!).

So what did I think..? No doubt it was good television. It certainly got a few laughs and raised the profile of Park Hill, giving the public a greater insight into what these projects involve!  I’m not sure any of the protagonists came out particularly well – either from English Heritage or Urban Splash.  And there was no mention of the people who really made this scheme happen, the HCA (maybe lucky for them!)

It’s disappointing that the programme stopped filming some weeks ago, before we finalised HCA funding and our development agreement, both of which have helped things really progress at Park Hill. It did, however, clearly illustrate the challenges and problems that beset a massive project like this. They’re never easy to deliver, even harder in today’s economic environment, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!

Someone once told me that the definition of success is the difference between expectation and delivery… This Park Hill programme has undoubtedly done an excellent job for us in managing people’s expectations! More importantly though, it’s made me even more committed to ensuring that we deliver our vision for Park Hill.

There are plenty of sceptics about and although I’ve never made a TV programme, I think it’s probably easier to make a documentary than deliver a project like Park Hill.  But we have already successfully completed several challenging schemes: Fort Dunlop in Birmingham, Royal William Yard in Plymouth, Lister Mills in Bradford, Chimney Pot Park in Salford, The Midland Hotel in Morecambe… given our track record I hope that the next Park hill documentary will be more positive.

Other reviews of the Park Hill programme can be found here: The Sheffield Star, BBC Look North, The Independent, The Sunday Times, The Guardian


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11 comments to My take on BBCs Park Hill documentary by Tom Bloxham MBE

  1. jane marsh says:

    Having lived on Park Hill flats as a child, good and bad was experianced by everyone. However, I think the flats should have been demolished a long time ago. A lot of money has gone into these flats, and in my opinon there will always be a stigma around them from when they were left to rot. Maybe Urban Splash may succeed where others have failed.

  2. Charlie says:

    Two of the portraits are of my brother and myself, We were part of the migration from the poverty and poor housing of Pitsmoor in the late 1950s .The images that Gary Hindley used were from a BBC documentary Women And Children First broadcast in the early 1960s. Over the years clips from this program have been used in many programs involving Park Hill Flats and recently just after the death of my younger brother I made contact with English Heritage and a lovely person called Mellisa went out of her way to get me of a copy of the original documentary. In the program my family featured in a short clip in which my father spoke about his feelings about the flats as did my younger brother. Unfortunately both are no longer alive, but the video and Gary Hindleys portraits are a great comfort to my family and have given us something to remember them by.The lady in curlers? After speaking to some of the older residents that are still around It seems there are two names been suggested for this lady. I am trying to find out who she was and I am expecting more information this week in fact. I have every confidence in UrbanSplash delivering the finished article and once again the Park Hill Flats will be the outstanding building that it once was. The passion and understanding shown by Lee the site manager on the Park Hill Flats was amazing and comforting to hear, he is to be commended for his dedecation in making the Park Hill Flats once again a secure, comfortable place for many to live in. Good luck to UrbanSplash and the future of PARK HILL FLATS .

  3. Tom Lawrence says:

    Hi Denise,

    The paintings are the work of Gary Hindely, a local artist who has begun painting some faces of Park Hill. We’re going to be putting a new painting up every week so keep your eye out for new ones – some are of people who featured in the 1960’s archive footage of Park Hill who we don’t know the names of, so maybe you can help us identify them?

    For more info see this article in the Sheffield Telegraph

  4. Denise from Sheffield says:

    Hi, in the office where I work we are watching the progress of the renovations with interest and are at the moment very curious about the paintings that have appeared in the facade of the first block to be renovated. Who is the artist? Why are they there? Is the subject the same in both?????


  5. Mark from York says:


    Just watched the programme on IPlayer (worth the licence fee on its own !!)
    As I’ve just returned from a hard days shopping (and drinking) in Sheffield I had the chance to speak to a lot of people about Park Hill and your project.
    Almost all seemed supportive and are glad it hasn’t been a victim of the downturn and left as a shell.
    However people did comment on the decision to ‘barrier’ the railway station effectively cutting off Park Hill from the city centre - any ideas what will be done about this ?
    Did you get the chance to comment on this before the decision was taken as people were saying why didn’t you try to stop this happening ?
    If you think you have problems in Sheffield try to be a developer in York - everyone has an opinion on what goes up (or not) in the city centre !!
    Please keep going at Park Hill as I’m sure a lot of people are waiting for you to fail but this will be a prototype for other similar buildings all over the country - better to reuse them rather than knock them down and build something ‘better’ in its place.

  6. A Jarvis says:

    I thought that the programme was the BBC at its Best. It left a profound mark on me - not much TV does that.

    I studied Park Hill as a teenager at school for my Geography O’level. I remember it fancinated me then. It is very easy to belittle a project of this nature. The English Heritage series on the Park Hill Estate captured the essence of Britain in 2009, perfectly.

    A Bold and forward thinking 1960’s design, revamped by a group (who had an inner reluntance to carry the idea forward) It at times seemed they were acting the part of Captain Blackadder in Blackadder 4 - those above know best.

    Little was said, but the programme oozed the real lack of direction as a society/community that people now experience and the disparaging gaps between groups within our society. The hardest part to watch is how projects on this scale are compromised from the original design, to a point which bold becomes bland and pointless. Where fundamentals are forgotten, practical liveability issues become side issues for sake of money/position and status.

  7. Liz Cook says:

    I loved the programme about Park Hill and was sad to see the project hitting hard times at the end of the programme, so I was really pleased to read that you are back on site. I went to Chimney Pot Park (ostensibly to see the Velfac windows) about 18 months ago and was amazed by what you are doing there. I just think that what you are doing is great and it is such a pity you weren’t in business when Leeds was pulling down one of its few great masterpieces, Quarry Hill Flats. And look what they have put up in its place - curse the DHSS. Yours, Liz from Leeds (sadly)

  8. Paul Murphy says:

    It did make good TV, such a change from the usual dull property related offerings. I am amazed that Urbansplash would involve themselves in any project where English Heritage also have an interest. ‘Very brave’ is the euphemism that comes to mind.

    I do hope you make a financial success of the project - hate to see you brought to your knees by this one.

  9. Andy says:

    I live near the flats and chose to invest in the area due to it’s proximity to the city and the plans for the flats. As asked by James, are there plans to invest in the surrounding streets? If not, it’s hard to see how spanking new flats would sit well and sell. That said, I haven’t seen evidence of this in the publIshed plans other than plans for the hill.

    Also, as the station has now been closed as a link from the flats to the city, are there plans to work around this?

    Naturally I have high hopes for the renovation and hope the build can progress to the plan and vision.

    Thanks for the vision and hard work :)

  10. James Aithie says:

    Thought it was a great documentary. The Urban Splash construction guy dealing with Tim Nice but Dim was great! You just know he spends time labelling things as spades. I have mixed views about this project, as I hate to see wasteful demolitions, but think more could be done with the immediate surrounding land to create a sense of community, than what was in the design plans.

  11. tom bloxham says:

    PS I wont be giving up my day job for a career in TV just yet !

Urban Splash on Google StreetView

April 7th, 2009 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Leanne Forshaw

So Google StreetView has launched. I wonder if there’ll be a surge to the confessional? Come on, I know you’ve been peaking in your neighbour’s windows…

It’s great to see some of our projects cropping up on there. The famous Urban Splash Loft Shop in Manchester looks good.

It’s also interesting to take a glimpse back in time at the Chips building during the early stages of construction – just the top layer of writing can be seen.

How far we’ve come – this is how she looks now!

Chips New Islington Manchester Urban Splash

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Something old, something new

April 7th, 2009 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Leanne Forshaw

You might have guessed that we like restoring things. We like taking old, run-down buildings and turning them into new homes. Proper homes. And proper communities. We believe that a marriage between modern design and traditional architecture really works and now, it seems, so do other people!

Last week journalist Ciara Leeming wrote this fab piece about restoration in the Guardian. Some interesting points about how we can update old property to create new. Have a look at how we’ve done it here at Urban Splash.

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