The changing face of our urban landscape
- Credit: Archant
With more and more offices being transformed into residential units, is the city's commercial stock being depleted?
There's a lot of 'now you see it, now you don't' going on in the city. Buildings you've driven, walked or cycled past and sadly watched fall into disrepair are suddenly shrouded in scaffolding and the next thing you know, a revamped version of the same building appears boasting plush new apartments for sale. This is regeneration, evolution and to be applauded because rather than trying to build new in the city where sites are nigh on impossible to find, developers are seeing the benefit of snapping up a ready made office block, with infrastructure such as car parking and access already there making it cheaper to transform. Situated in the heart of the city, such schemes are incredibly popular with buyers and a fairly straightforward one bedroom apartment can fetch a high price tag. Hard on the heels of selling apartments in Imperial House, formerly an Aviva office, estate agents abbotFox have just launched the sale of Elliot House on Ber Street, which was formerly a commercial office block, used by the NHS and probably best known for once housing the industrial tribunal offices. The office, part of the 'Brutalist' architectural movement, built in 1975 will be turned into 45 one, two and three bedroom apartments in a solely residential scheme. Prices will start at a very attractive £125,000 ranging to around £375,000 and many boast fantastic city scape views looking out over the other side towards Finkelgate church, the football ground and beyond. Ian Forrest, branch manager at abbotFox, said: 'The interesting factor to this building is that many people will never have actually realised the potential of it, they may have seen its fairly harsh 'concrete' exterior and never seen the fabulous views from its high levels.' A show apartment is already being created, probably about a couple of months away, and it is hoped the units will be finished by the summer. There's an interesting twist too in that abbotFox has launched a competition to name the building - this will run until March 24 when the winning one will be selected.
The conversion of Elliot House is the latest in a long line of commercial to residential ventures. Nick Dunn, a partner at Brown & Co and head of its commercial agency department, said it was the 'natural course of events' for many old office buildings to be used for residential because they were simply too expensive to refit for modern commercial use. 'Norwich rents are too low to support the creation of new Grade A commercial stock and there just isn't any.' He said that the glut of conversions would, however, stimulate the creation of new commercial buildings. Guy Gowing, managing partner at Arnolds Keys, said: 'The results have been a reduction in the oversupply of secondary offices in Norwich, which is good for the office market. Lower supply leads to an increase in rents and values, which can only encourage future development. Indeed, secondary office rents have increased by 8.55% in the last three years.'