Home is where the Hert is: Inside St Albans' Hertfordshire House
PUBLISHED: 09:28 25 September 2019 | UPDATED: 09:52 25 September 2019
It's part of one of St Albans' most talked-about new developments, but what is Hertfordshire House really like? Jane Howdle paid the city centre site a visit to find out.
Boarded up and cordoned off, Hertfordshire House spent more than a decade as one of St Albans city centre's biggest eyesores.
And it wasn't alone: next door on Civic Close was the shabby Principal Health Centre, owned by Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust, while the police station round the back on Victoria Street looked similarly tired.
Then things changed. Plans were put in place for a complete overhaul of what had become known as the Civic Centre Opportunity Site (CCOS) South.
Local people were invited to contribute to the design process through a charrette (or public workshop) initiated in 2016 by the Look! St Albans community group, and the feedback received was incorporated into the proposed scheme.
Angle Property bought Hertfordshire House, formerly county council offices, from the Royal Bank of Scotland back in 2015; it's currently being transformed into 26 one-bed apartments and penthouses, with commercial space at ground level.
The 1960s-built police station closed in 2015, and the building was purchased two years later by the council, who snapped up the former NHS clinic soon afterwards. The scene was set for a major redevelopment.
Morgan Sindall is now tackling this part of the project on behalf of St Albans district council.
A spokesperson for the firm said it had been selected as preferred bidder under a pre-construction services agreement. A team is currently making progress on the pre-construction works to ensure the site is well prepared and ready for the main works to commence.
These works will see the creation of a mixed-use development across two six-storey buildings where the recently-demolished police station, health centre and Hertfordshire House car park once stood.
There will be 100 apartments across the upper floors, with commercial and retail facilities on the bottom two storeys. There will also be a basement car park for more than 100 cars.
Around half of the new homes in this part of the development will have one bedroom, 40 per cent will be two-bed and the rest will have three bedrooms. Approximately 40 per cent will be affordable housing units.
But while this part of the project remains in its early stages, Hertfordshire House is now well on the way to completion, with the first residents set to move in before Christmas.
A one minute stroll from St Peter's Street and just half a mile from City station, it would be easy to imagine these homes appealing exclusively to young professionals commuting into the capital for work.
But David Gibbon, area sales manager for Stubbings, who are taking care of the development's marketing, said there's been no 'typical' buyer so far.
"We've had first time buyers, downsizers, investors," he says. "There's been a bit of a mixture. It seems to be appealing to lots of different types."
Not surprisingly given the high profile nature of the development, its initial launch event also attracted a fair few interested locals keen to take a look around the transformed site.
"We had a number of local people coming in - buyers and people who were curious," David says. "The feedback was really positive. Not just about what's inside but the fact that other stuff is happening." The 'other stuff' being the wider CCOS South development, which the council hope will be complete by April 2022.
Hertfordshire House itself is arranged over seven floors, with a spacious lobby and two commercial units (whose tenants have yet to be confirmed) on the ground level. Beneath this is a residents' cycle store and commercial storage space.
Floors one to four are home to six apartments apiece, ranging in size from 434 sq ft to 598 sq ft.
The top floor is the main event, housing two penthouses with impressive island units in the kitchen/dining/living rooms plus wrap around balconies with views across the city.
Prices are still to be confirmed on these two showstopper apartments, which measure 682 sq ft and 754 sq ft, but it seems safe to assume they'll cost a little more than the £320,000-380,000 range of those that have been released so far.
The lift, which is yet to be installed, will serve all floors, and each unit will be equipped with a video entry system.
The show home, which is located on the first floor, has been kitted out with contemporary furnishings to match the sleek handle-less kitchens with their Quartstone worktops and integrated Bosch appliances.
The apartments also boast underfloor heating and double glazing throughout, and Help to Buy is available on selected plots.
While new builds can be boxy, this isn't the case here, thanks to the generous ceiling height inherited from the former office building.
"This is the only one that's totally finished," David says, "though the others are nearing completion. The common areas are being finished, the carpet's down, external landscaping's essentially all done. We're definitely looking at completion this year."
Ten of the homes have so far been released for sale, and two of these have been reserved.
One thing the development doesn't have is parking, but Tony Williamson, director of Angle Property, doesn't consider this an issue: "We don't feel that the lack of parking is going to prove a major barrier, and it certainly hasn't deterred those buyers who have already secured a new home here.
"The location is so central that purchasers can enjoy all the benefits of living right in the city centre.
"The area is well connected by public transport and with St Albans City train station just a short stroll away, commuters are within easy reach of the capital and beyond."