Alumno Group (Alumno), purpose-built student accommodation specialist (PBSA), and Heitman LLC (Heitman), a global real estate investment management firm, have begun to regenerate a disused site in Whitelock Street, north of Leeds city centre, with the start of construction on its latest high-quality development to support the city’s growing student population.

The development, valued at £29.5 million, has been designed by Durham-based architecture practice, Howarth Litchfield, which has worked with Alumno from pre-planning stage on proposals to demolish several vacant buildings on the site in preparation for its full re-development.

Built over six and seven storeys with a gross internal area of 11,840sqm, the 411-bed building with ground floor commercial and cultural uses, is of a substantially brick facing design and features storey height windows and deep reveals with feature brick detailing.

It will contain a mixture of cluster flats and studios, including ten accessible bedrooms, an entrance hub with communal space, offices, a meeting room, laundry and gym.
At ground floor level there is also flexible gallery and studio space which will be used to support local artists and will feature workshops, a kiln and exhibition area. It will be run by a local non-profit organisation.

At roof level there is a terrace with an innovative specially planted biodiversity area featuring further communal study spaces and a cinema room.

Howarth Litchfield was appointed lead architect for the project after submitting a competitive tender and was ideally qualified to undertake the commission following the success of its work on an earlier 420-bed student scheme for Alumno at Sheraton Park, Durham.

Speaking about the practice’s appointment on the Whitelock Street scheme, Howarth Litchfield’s managing director, architect, Jonathan Yates, said:

“We have collaborated closely with the Alumno team from the outset, and following a successful planning outcome, we were subsequently novated to provide a D&B role throughout the construction programme following GMI Construction’s appointment as preferred contactor in April 2021.

“We are absolutely delighted to be involved again on such a notable student accommodation scheme with Alumno, who are well known for their high quality – high yield PBSA projects. Also, from a planning perspective, it is satisfying to be able to bring a disused site back to life in an up-and-coming area of the city.”

Since it was established in 2006, Alumno has specialised in the design and development of good quality and modern accommodation for students. David Lindsay, Alumno’s development manager, said:

“We are pleased to be working with the Howarth Litchfield team again on this scheme as we developed a strong working relationship with them on our Durham project and they understand the way we think and what we are trying to achieve.

“Alumno strives to shape communities with innovative student accommodation schemes that really raise the bar for student living and this is no exception with its public art space on the ground floor, which we see as being a tremendous asset to the local community as well as adding interest for visitors and the students who live there. Placemaking is a key driver in our designs and ensuring everything we do brings value back to the local community is central to who we are.”

GMI Construction Group is a well-established, successful building and construction services company with a proven track-record for delivering award winning projects for an international portfolio of developers, public sector clients and blue-chip companies in Yorkshire, the North East and the Midlands.

Andrew Hurcomb, divisional managing director of GMI Construction Group, added: “We are proud to continue our relationship with Alumno with this latest project, which will be a significant part of supporting Leeds’ growing position as a major university city.

“After completing the first three months of the 80-week build programme, which were spent demolishing the three existing buildings, we have now laid the concrete foundations and are commencing with the piling for the new development, which will contribute to the ongoing regeneration of this area of Leeds.”

RPS, global professional services firm, was responsible for submitting the planning application and has subsequently been appointed project manager, cost consultant, principal designer and BREEAM assessor.