A January transfer window deal at Newcastle is set to enhance the match day experience for toon fans – off the pitch.
Rapidly expanding development and regeneration specialist – The High Street Group – has bought a controlling interest in the company that acquired Strawberry Place from the football club owner Mike Ashley, for just over £10 million.
And the chairman of the Newcastle headquartered group says he wants to reach out to United fans to find out what kind of new facilities would improve match days at St. James’ Park.
Gary Forrest – a former non-league player and current manager of West Auckland – says: “This significant investment in Newcastle is part of the High Street Group’s continued mission to build communities and regenerate city centres.
“Our vision is to create a true community hub with leisure and retail facilities, a magnificent new hotel, luxury apartments at affordable rents and high quality office space. It is a hugely exciting opportunity to radically improve our city, bring investment and help to create hundreds of new jobs.
“I know some fans are concerned about how it may affect possible future development of the ground but there are no firm proposals for this at present and there are other options.
“This innovative idea would offer the thousands of fans who flock to St James’ Park a much wider choice of quality restaurants and bars, which would provide the ideal setting for pre and post-match revellers. However, it would also enhance the whole of the city for locals and visitors.
“And we want to bring the whole of the city with us so, when the detailed plans are completed, we will listen to the views of local businesses, residents and football fans. Their comments will inform our progress.”
The site, which is currently mainly car parking between the Strawberry pub – which would remain – and The Gate, would comprise four blocks. Block A and D would be residential, including a 21 storey tower with over 300 residential apartments.
High end offices would be provided in block B, of which 40% has already been pre-let. The hotel, bars and restaurants would be in Block C, in an ideal location for any city centre resident or visitor.
High Street Residential – part of the High Street Group – is already developing Newcastle’s tallest building, the 83 metre Hadrian’s Tower, a stone’s throw from St James’ Park in Rutherford Street. It is delivering 161 apartments for sale and private rent, with a Laurent Perrier Champagne Lounge on the 27th floor.
Other projects include eleven further developments of apartments for private rent (PRS) – one in Pottery Lane, Newcastle; another at Brett Wharf in Gateshead; four in Birmingham, two in Manchester and others in Milton Keynes, Salford and Warrington.
These will provide over 3,000 apartments and have a gross development value (GDV) of £644 million. When other PRS projects under investigation are added, the number of units is around 5,000 and the GDV £1.1 billion.
In addition, the High Street Group it is investing around £60 million in the development of award winning homes for sale on sites across the UK. A hospitality division has five hotels – and plans several more – together with 15 food, beverage and leisure venues.
Based on these assets, current and planned projects, together with secured investor funding, the group was recently valued at £1.2 billion by ACF Investment Bank. The target for 2022 is £3 billion.