Kirklees Council wants to encourage young professionals and university graduates to live in Huddersfield town centre and drive regeneration.
And the council wants to set the standard for future developments by creating “quality apartments” in two of its own grade II-listed buildings.
The council has drawn up a Huddersfield Town Centre Living Plan and is set to link up with a not-for-profit social housing developer Thirteen Group to re-develop Estate Buildings in Railway Street and Somerset Buildings in Byram Street, opposite St Peter’s Gardens.
According to a report to a meeting of the council’s Cabinet, the council wants to enter into an 18-month exclusivity period with North East-based Thirteen Group as they work up the detailed plans.
At the end of the 18 months Thirteen Group would then have the option to purchase both buildings at market value. During the exclusivity period the buildings would not be available to buy by anyone else.
The council report says: “The market for high quality development in Huddersfield town centre is untested. The existing market is dominated by student accommodation and smaller residential units which often have lower quality specifications, including lower internal space standards.
“Utilising existing buildings provides an opportunity for the council to use its own assets to create a high quality product with excellent space standards, providing the chance to set the standard and start to create the residential market which will support the wider Blueprint vision.”
The report says Thirteen Group has already spoken to University of Huddersfield students about what they would want from town centre accommodation to persuade them to stay.
Thirteen Group is said to be an experienced housing provider which has recently completed a similar town centre scheme in Middlesbrough. It is also working with Kirklees on new-build affordable housing schemes for council-owned land.
As well as encouraging young people to live in the town centre, the council and Thirteen Group could look at apartments for older people too.
Young people and older people both like the so-called “15-minute neighbourhood”, a concept of a resident being able to access most of all of the services needed within a 15-minute walk of their home. This supports a reduction in car use.
The council says they have taken the idea for Estate Buildings to the market before and found “limited interest” so it has decided to take the lead and show what is possible.
The report adds: “The development of Estate Buildings and Somerset Buildings will represent the first phase of residential development in Huddersfield town centre, utilising existing council assets to set the standard for a new type of residential development and demonstrating what can be achieved.”
Cabinet, which meets on Tuesday July 26, will be asked to agree the 18-month exclusivity agreement with Thirteen Group and Cabinet member for regeneration Clr Graham Turner (pictured above) is fully behind it.
He said: “Bringing people to live into the town centre will help regenerate the town centre and help create a better atmosphere.
“Without a plan, such as we have here, the buildings will continue to deteriorate and ultimately become more of a financial burden on the scarce resources of the council.
“In Working with Thirteen we have a unique opportunity for the council to work with a trusted existing partner who has significant…experience of town centre residential regeneration.
“By signing an exclusivity deal with Thirteen we can work closely with them to bring life back into both these buildings and develop much needed space for town centre living.
“This also means that they are involved at the very early stage of the development and the expertise they bring will be invaluable as we develop the plans for redeveloping these significant and important assets. Not only will we provide much needed living space but we will give these buildings a long-term future and protect them for future generations.”