Brief for the new development
The site divides into two parts:
- The building which will front onto Queen Street, containing a Travelodge hotel and two medium-sized retail units on the ground floor.
- The buildings on the rest of the site will contain student accommodation and more retail spaces.
The student accommodation will contain different room types providing a choice of living arrangements and budget. The majority will be single study bedrooms with ensuite shower rooms, arranged in groups sharing a kitchen/dining room. Others will be similarly arranged but share showers and WCs. A small proportion will be ‘studio’ rooms incorporating kitchenettes and ensuite shower rooms. There will be a number of common rooms along with a laundry and staff facilities.
Alumno specialises in student accommodation. A high-quality living environment is very important. The focus is on creating an inclusive and accessible building, with plenty of amenity areas and facilities that promote social interaction. The shared kitchen/dining rooms will provide the social focus for each ‘cluster’ of students. The common rooms will be located near lifts and primary circulation routes to ensure they are well used.
On the ground floor, along the west side and north end, there will be an ‘active frontage’. There will be two medium sized retail units and potentially smaller retail units/kiosks, some artists’ studios or a dance studio for the University.
There is archaeology under much of the site and investigations are underway. The student accommodation is being designed to touch the ground as lightly as possible. It is proposed to raise ground levels as much as necessary for ground beams and horizontal services to clear the top of the archaeology.
Public realm and landscape
There will be a relocated link road between the hotel and CBC and a new pedestrian street running north-south, between the hotel and student accommodation. This could adopt the old name of Queen Street; ‘Southgate.’ To the north, it leads to Firstsite Square, entrances to the new Curzon cinema and the gallery itself. To the south it leads to proposed stairs/ramp down to Priory Street through the old theatre yard wall. Though this is contiguous with the Roman wall, the area of wall affected is Victorian. There will activity at ground floor all along this street (under the accommodation and hotel).
A generously proportioned public area is proposed behind the Roman wall which may become a route into Berryfield, if opened to the public in the future, and may become a ‘boardwalk’ following the wall eastwards. In that scenario, this route into Berryfield along with another at the north, next to the First Site entrance, would encourage use of ‘Southgate’ bringing footfall to the new retail units.
Within the student accommodation three court areas of contrasting character are proposed. On the south, a ground floor common room opens on to a three-sided court with the benefit of sun from the south and a prospect, over the Roman wall, of the priory and St Botolph’s church. In the centre is the entrance courtyard, predominantly paved, which is the main circulation area. A small court towards the north of the site is largely enclosed to form a winter-garden, with extensive glazing, providing social study and quiet relaxation space.
Durable materials are proposed with contrasting colours/textures in the public streets and private courts.
The landscaping will be maintained by the appointed management company ensuring that in the long term a high quality landscape is retained.
Access and inclusion
The buildings are all being designed to create an inclusive environment. Both external areas and internal planning have been designed to achieve this and comply with part M of the building regulations with measures which include level thresholds, lifts to all floors and facilities for people using wheelchairs. The site is well served by public transport and there is a public car park in Priory Street next to the site. No parking will be provided for students and the provision of blue badge spaces is currently under discussion with the County and Borough councils. There will be a drop-off point for the hotel on Queen Street.
Service access will all be via the link road from Queen Street, with all servicing, delivery and fire-fighting access located in this vicinity. Vehicles will be able to turn into the new ‘Southgate’, reverse and drive back out. Apart from service vehicles, these streets will be for pedestrians only.
Sustainability and environmental strategy
A number of measures will help reduce energy consumption as far as possible and the project is aiming to achieve a ‘Very Good’ score for environmental assessment according the Building Research Establishment method (BREEAM).
Measures to reduce energy consumption include a well-insulated building envelope with high air-tightness, natural lighting and ventilation used as far as possible, and remaining energy demand met from renewable sources where feasible. It is proposed to use Combined Heat and Power (CHP) in both the student accommodation and hotel.
The court by the Roman wall will enjoy south sun, and stepping the building down on this side will allow greater sun penetration into the entrance court. The new street running north to south is 8m wide in order to achieve satisfactory light levels down to the first floor rooms. There will be a waste management recycling strategy. Green roofs are proposed everywhere to attenuate rainwater run-off. A wide range of facilities are proposed for students to maximise wellbeing, including social study spaces, common rooms, external amenity space, and shared kitchen/ dining spaces for each flat, along with abundant natural light and careful selection of materials.
There will be promotion of cycle use with the provision of conveniently and secure cycle stores