An Innovative Student Accommodation Development in the Heart of a City of Innovation.
In 2013 we identified an opportunity to acquire Mount Pleasant House in Cambridge. The building, which occupied a prominent position to the north west of the city centre adjacent to St Edmunds College, was subsequently purchased from the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) for £10.665m. Although speculative, this was a purchase with purpose. A close working relationship with a number of Cambridge colleges, and St Edmund’s in particular, had given us insight and understanding of the need for high quality student accommodation in close proximity to the college – a key element of the University’s value proposition for attracting top student talent, both nationally and internationally, in the extremely competitive higher education market.
To progress the opportunity, we joined forces with experienced developers of student accommodation, Osborne, in a joint venture to purchase and re-develop the property into a high quality student accommodation scheme for students and academic staff. Given the proximity of the development to St Edmund’s College and the College’s growing demand for quality, well-located accommodation, it was always the intent that St Edmund’s would be the primary user. In July 2017 a planning application was submitted, which once approved would see the existing 1970s, 42,000 sq ft office building and car park demolished and replaced by a 272 en-suite bedroom and studio student accommodation complex with high-specification shared spaces and facilities.
While Howard Osborne made the initial purchase, submitted the planning application and intended to develop the scheme to completion, it was always the vision to bring in an institutional investor to fund this prime purpose-built student accommodation investment, let on an annuity income style lease. As part of the package we had secured St Edmund’s College as the pre-let and prestigious occupier who would take an overriding long term lease, with the option to acquire the freehold at the end of the lease. Legal & General were attracted by this innovative deal, which would give them a valuable investment for a number of years.
Construction started in the summer of 2017 and completed in August 2019. The building was subsequently handed over to Legal & General and St Edmund’s College.
Mount Pleasant Halls is an innovative student accommodation development. The space has been cleverly optimised to provide 199 standard en-suite rooms (of at least 16.9sqm) and 73 studio flats (with a minimum size of 23sqm). Each room has an en-suite shower room or wet room - the shower rooms built off site as complete pods and then craned in to the building. This provided a quick, efficient construction process and ensured a consistent, high-quality finish. Investment in technology was also a priority, rooms facing the road have integrated air handling and noise reduction units – an important feature given the location of Mount Pleasant Halls on a road intersection.
Designed with the student experience and well-being in mind, clusters of eight en-suite rooms are grouped around fully equipped, hi-specification shared kitchens and communal living areas. These details, combined with features such as state-of-the-art security and cycle storage make Mount Pleasant Halls ideal for the modern student lifestyle, as well as future proofing the development for years to come.
By collaborating on this development, we have created an enduring partnership with Osborne, who, like us, are a multi-generational family owned business. In addition, we have:
- demonstrated our financial strength and agile decision making via a swift purchase under tight timescales, without the need for external funding;
- shown creative thinking in structuring a long-term deal to the benefit of all parties involved.
Above all we have created an innovative student accommodation scheme, within which the students (and staff) of St Edmund’s College can thrive before taking their ideas, learning and experience out into the world for years to come.
The development comprises four blocks of student residential accommodation set around two courtyards and is a concrete slab frame construction with brick elevations under flat roofs on a landscaped site. There are a total of 272 student beds, comprising 199 en-suite rooms and 73 studio flats.
The living space consists of a combination of individual en-suite bedrooms in clusters of 8 rooms with shared kitchens and living areas, and studio bedrooms with kitchenettes. The accommodation has been designed to a high standard and benefits from:
- En-suite shower rooms, with wet rooms for the accessible rooms.
- Desk and multiple storage units.
- Kitchen facilities with dining area and soft seating in cluster flats.
- Accessible WCs on lower ground and ground floors.
Each floor is accessible by lift and the development provides the following communal facilities:
- Common room and study area.
- Laundry room.
- Cycle storage.
- On-site visitor and disabled car parking and drop-off area.
- IT hub room.
- Porter’s lodge.
- Meeting room.
- Landscaped courtyard and external communal areas.
Prominently located on Huntingdon Road the site is bounded to the east by Mount Pleasant. St. Edmunds College is situated to the south west, Murray Edwards, Fitzwilliam and Churchill Colleges to the west, and Lucy Cavendish, Westminster and Magdalene Colleges further south. The site is broadly rectangular in shape and extends to approximately 0.58 hectares (1.43 acres).