Interview: David Hynda introduces the Napsbury Quarters, St Albans
- Credit: Archant
Napsbury Park is a rather revered and exclusive area of St Albans, providing high-spec homes to residents amid wildflower meadows, woods and tennis courts. It’s a bit like a utopia for the digital age.
A few weeks ago I was invited to the offices of Crest Nicholson to meet with David Hynda, Napsbury Park’s new sales director for the property firm’s Chiltern division. Crest have been at the helm of Napsbury Park’s gradual evolution into the man-made hamlet that it is today. For last decade or so, the development company have gradually nudged Napsbury out of the past and into the present - all the while merging traditional with contemporary. The current project, now edging closer to the brink of completion, is actually to be the final component in the transformation of this stand-alone sub-community of St Albans.
Named Napsbury Quarters, David repeatedly informs me that it’s “something special.” Why is it so different to the rest of Napsbury Park (which is all pretty special as well) I ask?
“This place is all about lifestyle. The whole of the Park is, but Napsbury Quarters really is the jewel in the crown,” he tells me. “It’s very twee.”
It reminds me of a mews in London, I say, which is apparently the look they are going for. “Yes, absolutely,” says David. “It’s got the mews feel, but on a country estate. This is a wonderful opportunity for buyers.”
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There is a sort of campus feel to Napsbury Park. In a good way. The regimentally placed sets of stylish buildings form their own village, neatly surrounding pockets of plush green land, consequently forming sociable areas. And while this certainly doesn’t have any type of communal, university feel to it, it does have a friendly one - an aspect that the community prides itself on.
“In the summer you can just grab a blanket, a bottle of wine and have a picnic outside in the parkland,” David says. “I’m actually thinking of moving there myself. It’s got the feeling of a little community. From the minute you drive in you are met with big feature walls surrounded by 4 acres of private woodland for the Napsbury Quarters. All of that is maintained by the management company, which is all built into the experience you’re getting when you choose to be a resident of the Park.
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“The prices are really reasonable for St Albans too. Although this is all being finalised we envisage them starting at around £250,000 for the apartments (depending on how many bedrooms they have) and rising up to about £700,000 for the town houses.”
Compared to the centre of St Albans, that’s not bad - and the fact that you get a lifestyle thrown in with the deal is an added allure. Admittedly, I noted when talking to David that the 4%-5% yield isn’t great at first glance; but once you’ve crunched the numbers, the capital growth as an investor has a lot of potential.
Napsbury Quarters aren’t purely up for sale - there are units available to let also. Plucking a 1000 sq ft unit out of the air as an example, you’re looking at around £1,400 pcm. Smaller apartments with only one bedroom, at around 600 sq ft, are still more reasonably priced than you’d find in a lot of other new builds.
Without pigeon-holing, David suggests that the flats are perfect for young professionals - those who want to reside outside of central London, but perhaps want to commute. Like yourself, I ask him?
“When I first came to St Albans two months ago (this interview happened in September when David had only been in his post a matter of weeks) I absolutely loved it. It’s got the same standard of bars and restaurants as London. Same with shopping – Napsbury is pretty close to a massive Sainsbury’s out of town, which is handy. Then in the city centre there’s everything from Jo Malone and the White Company, to H&M and M&S, and then the likes of TK Maxx.” He drops in that he’s going to steakhouse Prime for dinner that night, which I have actually since been to and can indeed vouch for. Even though I did have parmesan brocolli instead of thrice-cooked chips.
Bringing the Napsbury Quarters to fruition didn’t require the team to demolish the original building - merely convert it. It’s also been long-awaited, with Crest Nicholson and Aitchisons receiving 1500 enquiries early on for only 21 units. The interest has been a mixture of local, overseas and from London, with some people apparently so desperate to nab one of the units that there’s been offers to pay in cash, in full, upfront (which of course hasn’t happened). David puts the wait time for potential residents down to Crest Nicholson’s reputation. They are devout perfectionists it would seem.
Indeed, the firm won the Sunday Times British Home Awards ‘Homebuilder of the Year’ previously and David himself brings six years worth of industry experience to the role, leaving Taylor Wimpey to drive sales for Crest’s Chiltern division’s series of new developments (there will be another on the outskirts of St Albans and a further development coming to Hitchin, where the arts college used to sit).
“Crest are all about place-making,” David explains. “They don’t just dig a dirty hole, put it up, then shove some green in there. Inside is very high spec. But still a blank canvas so if you just can’t live without those pink cushions it will still work.”
The Chiltern division is now a year old (celebrated at the end of the summer with a company BBQ) and looks to progress forward by paying attention to this area of the country. By 2016 they aim to construct 200 more units and in 2017 the goal is 350, across the region. The division as a whole want 600 to their name over the coming few years.
But for now, the spotlight is on Napsbury Quarters. The logo is based on the badges of the nurses that once lived there, to honour them. And the gardens are designed by a royal botanical landscaper, David tells me. “That’s something I bet you wouldn’t get in the NHS nowadays!”
Aitchisons Residential Sales Director Nick Doyle, who was involved with the original development by Crest in Napsbury Park approximately 10 years ago, told the Herts Advertiser: “this is the final piece of the development jigsaw with the conversion of the original nurses’ homes and brings things very much full circle from when we were initially involved. The parkland location has matured over the years and has constantly been in high demand from buyers.”
The Napsbury Quarters launch day event is tomorrow, November 21. Call Aitchisons St Albans on 01727 855556 now for more information.
The Napsbury Park’s residents association website can be found at www.npra.org.uk