A 317 bed purpose built managed student accommodation (PBMSA) scheme developed around a former red brick warehouse building designed by Watt Tulloch & Fitzsimons in 1911 for Swanston’s Linen Company.
Lacuna WJ Ltd (Lacuna Developments & Watkin Jones Group) acquired the building along with no.24 College Street and 29 Wellington Place and submitted a planning application (LA04/2015/1252/F) in October 2015 proposing to develop a purpose built managed student accommodation building. The application was approved in June 2016.
Eastwood Demolition commenced demolition works on 28th August 2016 and O’Hare & McGovern commenced construction work during late 2016. The project completed in August 2018 and includes the retained facades of 41-49 Queen Street, 24 College Street and 29 Wellington Place with a 5 storey building behind the Wellington Place facade, 7 storey building behind the Queen Street facade and a 14 storey building setback within the centre of the site.
Swanston House comprises 114no. studios and 203no. cluster rooms (317 total), ground floor retail unit at Queen Street, common room, management suite, reception, laundry room, cycle store, plant room and bin storage area. The building is operated by Student Roost.
The development was sold in a ‘forward funding’ deal to an investment company during late 2016.
Previously Poposed Redevelopment (2008 – 2014)
Carlisle Property Developments Ltd and Blamphin + Associates submitted a planning application (Z/2008/1256/F) in June 2008 proposing to demolish the existing building and develop a nine storey residential building comprising 69 apartments and two ground floor retail units. The application was approved on 29th June 2009.
The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS) challenged the decision by Judicial Review and the decision to approve was quashed on 8th January 2010. Carlisle Property Developments Ltd submitted an amended proposal in June 2010. The revised scheme proposed 58 apartments and two ground floor retail units. DoE Planning’s Development Control Group proposed that the application be presented to Belfast City Council’s Planning Committee with a recommendation to approve. No agreement was reached at the Council’s Planning Committee meeting on 2nd June 2011.
The UAHS and Forum for Alternative Belfast submitted a document outlining a proposed alternative scheme to Carlisle Property Developments Ltd and the Department of the Environment in July 2011. The proposal, comprising 50 apartments, 3 ground floor retail units and 25 parking spaces, would involve facade retention with a concrete framed structure behind and two additional storeys clad in copper projecting above the original building.
DoE planning issued a decision to approve Carlisle Property Developments Ltd’s planning application in April 2012. A press release stated that the Environment Minister exhaustively considered options to save the existing building although he was “mindful of the risky state of the building, the unhealthy state of the property market and the disproportionate and uneconomic costs to even save the facade”.
The UAHS again sought Judicial Review and were granted permission to challenge the decision on the grounds that the DoE ignored the advice of its Conservation Officer, Area Architect and Case Officer that the development would cause harm to the conservation area, and that undue weight was given to economic considerations. The hearing took place in 2013 and Mr Justice Treacy issued his judgement on 7th February 2014. He ruled that the Department of the Environment failed to properly consider a policy presumption in favour of retaining buildings in conservation areas.
The building was later acquired by Lacuna WJ Ltd and developed for student accommodation.