The bulldozers are moving onto Friargate and soon people will see building work beginning to transform a long rundown part of Preston city centre.
Our £18m redevelopment, near the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), is the biggest construction project underway in the city.
As well as creating much-needed jobs in the industry, at the height of the building project – which is being overseen by local construction company Eric Wright – around 200 workers will be employed on site. And we are hopeful it will act to kick-start the long-awaited regeneration of this important area of Preston. The opportunity is there.
And, across Lancashire, private investment is again starting to make its mark. As we slowly emerge from the dark days of the recession, developers are looking to build again.
The fact the cranes are appearing on the county’s skylines is good news. The infrastructure improvements in the city centre and the private investment that has seen the Guild Hall taken into private ownership are all good news.
I also welcome the commitment being shown by the Lancashire County Pension Fund to back Preston infrastructure projects, as this will help to attract other external funders for future development and regeneration.
UCLan is playing a growing role in the economy of the city and is committed to improving the links between the university campus and the city centre. I expect to see more imaginative development around Friargate and Corporation Street in the coming year.
The transformation of the strategic 1.5 acre site we are developing will lead the way, bringing new retail premises onto Friargate and a 253-room building providing boutique hotel-style accommodation to university students.
Part of that high-quality accommodation is also aimed at postgraduate students, as well as apprentices and key workers in Preston’s high-tech manufacturing sector and the new Enterprise Zone.
Preston is a city that welcomes more than 2,000 international students each year, representing more than 100 nationalities. Investment also comes from overseas, particularly China and the Far East.
The student accommodation sector is seeing continuing growth and is a real property success story in the UK. We believe it will grow even stronger in 2015.
Our business model has also received a terrific response from overseas investors. They see the UK as a solid and strong place in which to invest their money.