Student village planned for historic Lancaster furniture site

Development: The site incorporating the former Gillows showroom

Development: The site incorporating the former Gillows showroom

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A run-down area of Lancaster is to become a “student village” with a university nightclub at its centre.

Multi-million pound plans have been submitted to convert the iconic Gillow building into 90 student cluster flats, while Lancaster City Council is preparing to sell St Leonard’s House for student accommodation.

Wider reaching plans to develop a “Gillow Quarter” incorporating the two buildings and others in close proximity, with a residential element, have failed to get off the ground.

Coun Tim Hamilton-Cox said the plan “brings investment and breathes new life into a substantial and historic listed building” but expressed disappointment that a more integrated plan for the whole site couldn’t have been made.

Lancaster developer Cityblock, which owns the Gillows building in North Road, has applied for permission to convert it into student accommodation with a glass facade at the rear.

Up until recently the Grade II Listed world famous furniture hub has been a nightclub, but now stands mostly empty.

Cityblock boss Trevor Bargh said the proposal would deliver a “transformational change for the site”. The project, subject to planning approval, is scheduled to open for student intake in autumn 2017.

Mr Bargh said: “The designs respect the historic conservation area setting whilst outwardly expressing and celebrating the building’s main function as vibrant living space. I love Lancaster, and we really do care about what happens to it, but in the absence of a more holistic view (of the site) we’re minded to push forward with our own development.”

Coun Hamilton-Cox said: “Last week the city council’s cabinet approved the use of St Leonard’s House for student accommodation and now CityBlock has independently produced its own design for more student rooms in the Gillow building. By default it seems that the ‘quarter’ is turning into a student village around The Sugar House night-club.

“But it will be good to see buildings which are so prominent in the cityscape being rejuvenated and perhaps provide the encouragement for other property investment in the vicinity. The hope continues to be that students move into this sort of purpose-built accommodation and thereby free up housing which can go back into the market for the city’s permanent residents.”

Cityblock is also currently in the process of demolishing the former Squires Snooker Hall in King Street to make way for a student development.