Construction work starts at largest purpose-built student accommodation scheme in Europe

Leading central London student accommodation provider Urbanest has closed and completed on all financing and construction agreements to deliver the largest purpose-built student accommodation (“PBSA”) scheme in Europe. The development, situated next to Billingsgate Market, will also become Europe’s largest Passivhaus development.

The scheme will deliver 1,672 student beds and 80 residential apartments across three towers for students of University College London (UCL). Amenities for students include a gym, yoga studio, cinema, study spaces and games rooms, all situated within an elevated skybridge.

The three towers will be between 28 and 48 storeys and the ground floor level is set to feature a drive-thru McDonalds restaurant together with 40,000 ft² office and affordable incubator workspace.

The development, set to complete in 2026 will be built in line with Passivhaus criteria. Features such as air source heat pumps and vertical planting, set within sky gardens rising up the towers, are some of the planned features that will help the scheme work towards its aim of having sector-leading sustainability credentials. Targeting BREEAM Outstanding, the development designed by Apt Architects will promote the comfort and wellbeing of all residents with whole house ventilation and air conditioning to heat and cool individual students’ rooms.

The scheme supports UCL’s accommodation strategy, providing a campus of well-located beds, with excellent facilities, close to first rate transport links and strategically located between all three of UCL’s main campuses. It builds on Urbanest’s existing long-term nominations agreement with UCL at its King’s Cross building.

Midgard, part of JRL Group, has been appointed as the main contractor, bringing strong experience of residential towers from, amongst others, One Thames City and Consort Place.

Funding partners Lloyds Bank, who provided a fully underwritten solution, led the senior lender group for this transaction, bringing in Wells Fargo and Bank ABC as co-lenders at closing to a £250m five-year development facility. An Aviva Investors’ Real Estate Long Income mandate provided ground rent finance on the site for 75 years.

Johnny Manns, chief investment officer at Urbanest commented:

“The scheme reflects our commitment to working with exceptional designers to deliver high quality architecture and truly world-class environmental performance. With a growing student population in London, we strive to create high quality accommodation which provides students with more choice. We look  forward to working with our construction and funding partners over the next three years and then to welcoming our first intake of UCL students.”

Sam Shah, director and alternative residential lead at Lloyds Bank commented on behalf of the syndicate:

“We’re delighted to support Urbanest in enabling this state-of-the-art project which targets sector-leading sustainability credentials. The scheme will provide vital high-quality, affordable and mid-market student accommodation, helping to reduce the acute pressures on housing in London.”

In addition to Urbanest Canary Wharf, Urbanest Battersea is also under construction and being built to Passivhaus standards. Between them the schemes will deliver around 2,500 student beds. This is in addition to the 4,000 beds across Urbanest’s central London portfolio of developments which have already been built out.