January 26, 2017
Finzels Reach, one of the largest mixed use regeneration projects in the South West, is spearheading the transformation of the medieval heart of Bristol and raising the bar for regeneration in regional UK cities.
The 4.7 acre site has a rich history – originally this central site was occupied by Courage Brewery, who withdrew in 1991 leading the site to fall into disarray and was closed off to the public for over 200 years. A far cry from the thriving mixed use community you will find there today with over 700,000 sq ft of Grade A offices, new build residential, leisure and hospitability.
Over the past 4 years, Bristol-based developer Cubex Land, with its shareholders and funding partner, Palmer Capital, have rapidly transformed the site. It was acquired from receivers after a previous attempt to regenerate it ran into difficulties and had left the site derelict.
On acquisition the site had a single 115,000 sq. ft. office building (only 25% let) and 140 residential apartments of which half lay empty and unsold.
Cubex and Palmer Captial have spend three years creating a new community on the site with over £100 million worth of office space, £100 million worth of residential space, and nearly £50 million worth of leisure space.
By 2019 some 2,500 people will be living and working at Finzels Reach, with 437 new apartments, alongside 240,000 sq. ft. of new office space. It will become a magnet for the public and tourists with 30,000 sq. ft. of shops, restaurants, a micro-brewery and a 168 -bedroom new Premier Inn hotel.
Integrated into the site, will be Aurora – a 95,000sq ft. grade-A office building, set to open in 2018, which will help reduce the acute shortage of office space in the city. This follows the refurbishment of Bridgewater House, an 115,000 sq. ft. of Grade A office accommodation now fully let to EDF, BDO and Barclays Wealth.
The complex of new apartment buildings – from the affordable-housing Hop Store (where one-bed apartments start from £185,000) through to the height of city living luxury – is almost entirely sold, with 130 apartments purchased and just three remaining to be snapped up.
The entire site has been designed to encompass a hybrid of the sites original medieval roots with narrow pathways winding through high buildings, cobbled streets and a complete absence of cars alongside cutting edge contemporary design, delivering a vibrant place where the people of Bristol wish to live, work and socialise.
The jewel in the new development has been the erection of the brand new £2.7m iconic S-shaped Bridge connecting Castle Park with Finzels Reach, which will further knit the Finzels Reach site back into the fabric of the city.
Finzels Reach has brought c. £250m of investment to the city of Bristol and has unlocked the regeneration of a neglected area of the city centre.
Cubex’s policy of using local suppliers has secured jobs, with over 2000 local people employed on the scheme during the development phase and 2,000 permanent jobs as long term legacy. This development has injected a new lease of life to Bristol city centre attracting new occupiers, international investors and media attention that it has not seen for decades.
Wider benefits to the city include new sustainable transport routes, with the new bridge and overhauled ferry stop to link transport modes, and pedestrian and cycle routes across the site.
Full developer-led public consultation has taken place before each planning application, all of which have been approved.
Cubex has adapted plans such as the design of the bridge, to ensure it does not interrupt existing recreational and commercial activities on the river.
A programme of activities is planned to engender a sense of local ownership of the new quarter including a public competition to name the bridge and a regular food market.
In addition to this, Cubex have developed a long term partnership with LandAid to support youth homelessness in the local area.
The challenges of delivering multiple buildings at the same time on such a dense site, which already has occupiers, has been tackled by hands-on management by the development team and strong community engagement.
Palmer Capital, created a unique funding consortium comprising the original Middle East based Sharia borrower (enabling them to recover lost equity), an Asian SWF (its first UK Investment) and a UK pension fund.
The year of 2016 saw the site starting to take shape, rejuvenating a c.200 year old derelict site to now creating a vibrant mixed use community in the heart of the city combining Grade A offices, new build residential and hospitality in a manner that respects the location of the asset and the historic street pattern. However the year of 2017 is the year to watch, with much of the works to be complete and the new bridge to become open to the public.