BREATHING life back into one of Exeter’s most prestigious Grade II* listed buildings is at the core of a new, multi-million-pound development in the heart of the city. As the first of 30 luxurious Dean Clarke Lofts open to the public on March 8, we look at why they really stand out from the crowd.
WITH historical features of jaw-dropping proportions, super fast broadband, and unrivalled views over Exeter, students will soon be living the high-life here.
Wide, open corridors wind their way through enormous, feature doorways, past period sash windows, and into spacious, fully-furnished, self-contained studio lofts, complete with locally-sourced hi-spec fitted kitchens, stylish bathrooms and feature mezzanine-level double-bedrooms.
“These loft spaces are enormous, from 30 to 54-square-metres per unit, and not only do they sit in one of the city’s prime locations, in one of Exeter’s most historic buildings, they are also equipped for the digital age with the fastest 100MB broadband, powerful Wifi and flatscreen internet televisions,” said Mark Edworthy, managing director of Dean Clarke Estate Ltd, the company at the helm of the development.
“This really is about sensitively marrying history with the best of contemporary design and energy-efficient technologies,” he added.
Located in the Halford Wing of Dean Clarke House, the lofts form a side-section of the former Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital on the corner of Southernhay and Southernhay Gardens. Their creation will make them the largest, most luxurious, upscale student accommodation the city has ever known – complete with CCTV, gas-fired central heating, onsite managers, and competitive rental prices to boot.
“They don’t feel like student accommodation at all,” said Cathryn Bishop, director of Devon and Cornwall-based Cornish Interiors, who have been working alongside Individual Interior Solutions to design the lavish, student decor. “The amount of light for studying is just amazing, as is the space,” she added.
Ranging from feature wall lights to kitchen and bathroom fittings with Zebrano finishes and ironmongery in a brushed, satin finish throughout, high-spec materials adorn this accommodation.
What’s more, they are within walking distance of the Streatham and St Lukes University of Exeter campuses, Cathedral Green, Princesshay and High Street shops, Exeter Museum, the Quayside, and the other, many amenities the city has to offer.
Two of the lofts will open as show studios on Friday (March 8) with the first tenants expected to move in at the start of the 2013-14 academic year. They are available for postgraduate students and professionals in training to rent, on an inclusive basis, on 51-week tenancy agreements. The lofts offer exceptionally spacious and luxurious accommodation for singles – but are large enough for sharers to enjoy the space, grace and pace offered at Dean Clarke Lofts.
Their formation marks the first phase of the larger Dean Clarke House development, which follows an extensive consultation programme between developers, planners and conservation officers. Phase II, due to open in summer 2014, includes the conversion of the main, 18th century Dean Clarke House, into serviced offices and luxury residential accommodation.
A restaurant, part of the Loungers chain, will open on ground floor of Dean Clarke Lofts in mid-April, bringing added vitality to this part of the city centre.
“This is a building of real architectural quality with the House representing an important part of the historical legacy of Exeter City,” said Exeter-based architects, LHC, the company behind the design.
Dating back to 1741, the buildings were founded by Dean Alured Clarke and designed by John Richards, forming part of the Southernhay and Friars Conservation Area. Since the original construction, the hospital has been extended numerous times, with the most substantial extensions being the Halford Wing, constructed in 1856, and the Victoria Wing, added in 1895. Today, both wings “provide exceptional historical significance,” say architects.
The buildings escaped the World Wars but post-war, they could no longer accommodate the needs of advancing medical practices. By 1974 a modern hospital had been constructed at Wonford, Exeter, and most hospital services transferred there with the majority of the Dean Clarke House NHS complex converted to office use for the administrative arm of the NHS.
“It is apt that it now forms a critical component in the strategy for breathing new life into the community today,” said LHC.
The development for the whole 0.6 hectare Dean Clarke House site, also includes the creation of gardens, with the Dean Clarke House outdoor space boasting a unique micro-climate within a walled, garden, shaded by a mature purple beech trees. The plans are to introduce silver-grey-greens into the garden to complement the red brick building, with banks of lavender and trellis work swathed in romantic roses.
“We believe that a place, be it for living, working or learning, should be uplifting to the human spirit. We strive to inspire, to bring joy, to calm and to comfort,” say architects.
National law firm TLT’s real estate development partner, David Smithen, said they were also thrilled to be working alongside Dean Clarke Estate Ltd: “We are delighted to have advised Dean Clarke Estate Ltd on this complex purchase, which is a significant south-west multi-million pound property development deal. Various specialist experts from across the firm worked hard to make sure that the purchase was completed within the tight deadline.”
Coupled with the prestige of the developers, interior designers and the professional team of those working to breathe life back into the Dean Clarke Estate it is set to become another architectural landmark in the ever-improving Exeter city centre
“Dean Clarke Lofts is set to change the face of student accommodation as we know it,” said Mr Edworthy.