To increase security, speed and for a better experience when using our website, we recommend upgrading your browser

Suggested Searches
    0 Results Found
    See all results

    Buy or Rent

    Buy or Rent

    Residential or Commercial
    Buy or Rent
    Search all homes



    Get on the list

    Get on the list

    Get the latest news on property development, placemaking, architecture, careers, new homes and workspaces straight into your inbox.

    US30 - Blog by Tom Bloxham MBE

    US30 - Let's start with US

    20 April 2023
    A 5 minute read by Tom Bloxham

    2023 marks 30 years in business for Urban Splash and throughout the year, we’ll be hearing from people who’ve joined us on our journey.

    Today, we’re starting with our Chairman and co-founder Tom Bloxham MBE, who talks through three decades of learning, developing and planning for the future…

    Back in 1993 we established Urban Splash with a clear vision. We borrowed the mantra of the citizens of ancient Athens – “We will leave this place not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was left to us” – and set about transforming disused and unloved buildings up and down the country.

    We didn't really know what we were doing but it was always our mission to add value, finding places no one else wanted – places that had a history of social and physical decline. While others called them problem sites, we saw them as opportunities; charming structures with character that could be regenerated and enhanced for a new generation of occupiers.

    Oath sworn by the citizens of ancient Athens

    We didn’t (and still don’t!) care whether a building was from the 1780s or 1980s, we just wanted to apply the same principle of creating distinctive affordable homes and workspace, that were well-designed and easy to move into.

    We’re now 30 years into that journey and have created over 6,000 new homes, 2 million sq ft of workspaces, hundreds of jobs, as well as thousands of people living and playing in our neighbourhoods.

    It’s all thanks to an unconventional approach of putting the place first, identifying each building or scheme’s unique points of character and fusing them with modern design ideas.

    Afflecks Palace in Manchester - where Tom sold posters and sub-let surplus space

    The early days

    But how did it all start? Back in 1993, I met with my co-founder Jonathan Falkingham – an architecture graduate who had established his own practice, in Liverpool in the early 90s.

    I liked his style and ideas and I knew we could do something pretty special if we put our heads together. Collaboration has always been important to me – something I learned back selling my posters at Manchester’s Afflecks Palace – a place filled with likeminded individuals.

    BaaBar - the first modern bar in Liverpool at Liverpool Palace

    Our first venture together, predating Urban Splash, was BaaBar, opened in April 1991 a cheeky, modern venue and the first modern bar in Liverpool, and I think the first bar with a 2am licence – something confined to nightclubs at that time.

    That venture started in Liverpool before quickly evolving into a recognisable brand in other northern locations. We learned a lot in a very short space of time and assimilated our experience to take on other projects in Liverpool’s Ropewalks – including Concert Square and Liverpool Palace.

    We brought shared experience – Jonathan’s design approach, and my knowledge of commercial space and property – something I’d flirted with when I sublet spaces at Afflecks. Place was key, and we made it our mission to deliver great spaces that would establish a new setting and identity; Concert Square for example was the first public square in Liverpool in more than a century.

    Concert Square - Before
    Concert Square - After

    We then turned our attention to the inside of such buildings. Loft living was stealing the spotlight in Manhattan, so why not in Northern cities, where we had an equally gritty, post-industrial backdrop?

    We took inspiration from New York and the great European Cities filled with people living at their hearts, and created our first apartments at Concert Square – pioneering a new trend for Liverpool and the north. We were told there’d be no demand, people wanted the suburbs not the buzz of the city. We completely disagreed and saw the appeal of the city as a key selling point. Urban living had been done well the world over, and it was time to bring it to our burgeoning Urban Splash places – starting in the North of England.

    Some of our earliest loft apartments at Concert Square in Liverpool

    Culture scene setters

    We flew the flag for great design, flexibility and for bringing entire places back to life. Our early Urban Splash buildings became cultural hubs closely affiliated with music and arts – proper passions of mine; Liverpool Palace was inspired by my experiences selling posters on Camden Lock market and we nurtured it to become home to Cream, The Farm, The La’s and Oceanic.

    We then took the idea down the M62 to Manchester, redeveloping Ducie House near Manchester Piccadilly station. It was the same gritty-end-of-town premise, but one that quickly attracted a similar influx of names – Simply Red, 808 State and Lamb to name a few.

    Ducie House - Before
    Duce House - After

    We flew the flag for great design, flexibility and for bringing entire places back to life. Our early Urban Splash buildings became cultural hubs closely affiliated with music and arts – proper passions of mine; Liverpool Palace was inspired by my experiences selling posters on Camden Lock market and we nurtured it to become home to Cream, The Farm, The La’s and Oceanic.

    Park Hill - Before
    Park Hill - After

    In the years since we’ve done this again and again, creating places like Royal William Yard in Plymouth, New Islington in Manchester, Port Loop and Fort Dunlop in Birmingham and Park Hill in Sheffield – a new cultural quarter, Stirling Prize nominee, and a building the Sunday Times said helped put the city on the map.

    Fort Dunlop - Before
    Fort Dunlop - After


    No 30-year journey would be complete without the inevitable bumps in the road, and we’ve had many issues thrown our way – largely as a result of macroeconomic trends. The global banking crisis of 2008 hit us hard and temporarily changed our business model as we shifted towards asset management.

    True then as it is now, agility helped us through; we saw that people very much still wanted great design and an Urban Splash home, they just couldn’t get mortgages to buy them, hence offering our homes for rent for a few years before getting back onsite at schemes in New Islington Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Plymouth from 2009 onwards.

    New Islington - Before
    New Islington - After

    The macroeconomic and political landscape will always influence business performance, but we’ve been undeterred from trying new ideas. In each case we’ve learned lessons, looked after our people, and moved forward with a renewed outlook.

    Royal William Yard - Before
    Royal William Yard - After

    A vision for the future

    This piece doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, and our history is vast, as too is our vision for this decade.

    We’re planning 4,500 new homes and 500,000 sq ft of commercial space in the next five years, delivering schemes as far south as Plymouth and Milton Keynes, and as far North as the Lake District. Each will be created sensitively and in line with what’s already there.

    Campbell Park in Milton Keynes

    Crucially though, they’ll be created by great Urban Splash people, and another priority for our immediate future is to continue to attract the biggest and brightest talent into our business. I’ve talked here about flexibility, and as much as we’ve always been a flexible developer and landlord, we’ve been a flexible employer too, establishing a unique working culture that empowers people.

    Civic Centre in Plymouth

    Since 1993 I’ve met hundreds of colleagues who inspire me, and I want to ensure we keep surrounding ourselves with people we can learn from. Those who’ve left have often gone on to establish their own businesses and you’ll find many of them in our supply chain.

    For those that stay, we’re investing in them, nurturing them and giving them the tools they need to keep that Athenian mantra alive for the next 30 years and beyond.

    Urban Splash Newsplash

    Want to be kept in the loop about all things Urban Splash as we celebrate 30 years in business? Then sign up for Newsplash!

    Our monthly news round-up with the latest and freshest news on property development, place-making, housing, architecture, events and careers sent straight to your inbox.

    Looking for something else?