First look inside the former Norwich Union office converted into 200 apartments
PUBLISHED: 18:26 25 May 2018 | UPDATED: 18:26 25 May 2018
You’ve seen the scaffolding around Norwich but now it’s the ‘big reveal’ as hundreds of new apartments in three major developments in the city centre reach various stages of completion. Property editor Caroline Culot went to visit Sentinel House, Skipper House and Aldwych House, all for sale with abbotFox.
It seems the city has been shrouded in scaffolding for the past year as many major apartment schemes are created in the heart of the city; you drive and walk through Norwich oblivious to what is going on in the heat and dust of building sites off some of our major streets. But not any more – as I was given a tour of three main developments; all converted from existing office buildings.
Sentinel House, Surrey Street; this is one of the largest office conversions in the city transforming a former Aviva building into 199 apartments complete with a plush concierge and gym. I visited it six months ago and was interested to see the transformation; there is now a fully furnished show flat and the development is on schedule for being ready by July. To take on a building this big and convert it into nearly 200 apartments with all the infrastructure needed required almost a military style operation, with the work being done by 130 people organised floor by floor. To give an idea of scale, the developers have just ordered 60,000 tiles!
Agents abbotFox have sold 75 per cent of the scheme with apartments still available priced from as little as £99,950 for a studio to £250,000 for a larger two bedroom home and some parking is available too.
Samuel Le Good, partner at abbotFox, said: “A real mix of people are buying them - ranging from a couple living in Brighton who want somewhere to stay when they visit Norwich to couples buying for when they retire but renting them out in the interim to others using them as ‘bolt-holes’ and generating some income from them on Airbnb. Professionals are buying them so they can ditch the drive time into the city - so basically this scheme suits all kinds of buyers.”
Sentinel House offers a bit of extra luxury you might not expect in an office conversion because of its 17.5m high stained glass panel and the marble lobby which will have the security of a concierge as well as a resident’s lounge and a gym. The apartments are light with several windows and even the studio I saw has room for a double bed in one corner and a dining table and chairs - but with the smaller apartments, it’s the lifestyle they offer; do you need much dining space if you are going to really only eat breakfast there? These apartments are literally changing the way we live - they appeal to downsizers who fancy living in the city with all it offers in terms of leisure facilities, with no garden to maintain at the weekends leaving more time to relax and less time to worry about house maintenance. So retirement if you live in an apartment is a very different lifestyle to if you live in a bungalow in a village.
You don’t need that extensive kitchen and dining room if you are going to eat out more and you could possibly even think of doing away with your car. For others who can afford it, city living provides an alternative to living in the country or suburbs; you can buy an apartment as a second small pad where you can go there after a busy day in the office rather than driving out to your main home - and if you can buy a studio for £99,950, the figures do stack up and it’s not actually an option only for the rich.
Buying an apartment is definitely a lifestyle choice - you don’t get the value for money you do with buying, say a terraced house which comes with several rooms and a garden but what Sentinel House offers is a city experience, you are right in the heart of Norwich able to walk to shops, to the bus station, to the railway station - you can go out after work or stay out late and still be in bed for midnight with no long taxi ride or drive home.
If you buy a terraced house, you’ve got the maintenance and you still probably need to get a taxi in and out of the city. Historically, apartments have not offered such potential to add value as terraced houses but interestingly a report out this week states flats have in fact increased in value considerably over the last five years.
For the serious investor, there are also real benefits in buying at Sentinel House with packages created if you are looking to grow your portfolio. Skipper House, Ber Street - visiting this was especially interesting as I remember the building when it was Elliot House, the industrial tribunal office.
AbbotFox ran a competition to rename the building when it was developed last year and Skipper House was chosen after the architects (Edward Skipper & Associates), and also as a nod to Edward’s ancestor George Skipper, the renowned Norwich architect,
This development of 45 apartments has just had its last phase released of 10 homes priced from £140,000 to the penthouses at £325,000.
Now, this development is all about the view, which you’d never imagine was so incredible but I was taken to one of the penthouses which look out over the rear, and you get the most impressive panoramic view of the city with one of the best views of the cathedral I have seen.
The apartments have large wrap around balconies so you can literally look out right round from the football ground over across, right out even to the airport and Norwich prison round to the castle, cathedral, Westlegate tower and even the EDP! These two bedroom penthouses are really roomy with a large kitchen/open plan with a living space and I liked the fact the balcony goes round so you can also access it from one of the bedrooms.
Aldwych House, Bethel Street - this, again, will be a building many of you will remember as a former NHS council owned office which became empty and now has been bought by a developer and converted into 52 apartments.
AbbotFox have sold the first phase of 10 and the latest phase has just been released of a further 10, priced from £100,000-£225,000.
Now, these apartments are really quite different from the other two in that they are situated on a historic street overlooking many period buildings and city rooftops, so the feel is quite different. And if you buy the end apartment, it overlooks the most beautiful period house from the rear with crowstep gables and ornate chimneys - I personally would buy that on that basis just so I could look out over that every day! The apartments again are reasonably spacious, fairly functional in design but boast lots of windows and those square ‘picture windows’ from where you can look out over some period buildings and City Hall - one thing is for sure, you’ll always know what the time is!
Sentinel House, Skipper House and Aldwych House are all being created by different developers but all for sale with abbotFox on 01603 660000 www.abbotfox.co.uk