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Developer to turn unfinished hotel into student accommodation

The development of new apartments in and around city centres across the UK has been a notable feature in many places in recent years. London and Manchester are perhaps the two most notable locations as numerous skyscrapers rise up, but cities like Leeds have also been hives of activity.

Outside the capital, city centres have traditionally been areas for business rather than residential purposes, but that has changed dramatically in recent years, with both young professionals and students arriving in greater numbers and enjoying the proximity residing in central areas gives them to transport links and places to eat, drink, shop and be entertained. 

Leeds has certainly seen a lot of student building in recent years and more flats are on the way, after a new developer came forward to take over a stalled hotel scheme this week. 

Select Property Group has taken over the site of an unfinished hotel development at Portland Place near Leeds Arena. The building had been started by developer and construction firm GB Building Solutions, but work was halted when the firm went bankrupt over two years ago.  

Since then, the building has lain idle, but Select has plans to restart work. Instead of continuing the development of what was to be a 206-room hotel, the building will instead feature 273 student flats under the Vita Student brand name. 

The developer will be spending £56 million on the site, which will complement the £20 million student scheme at nearby St Alban's Place. 

Chief executive of Select Property Group Mark Stott said: "For us, finding the right locations for our residences is key and we’ve done just that with Portland Crescent and St Alban’s Place."

The project will keep insulation fitters and plumbers busy as they fit out the new building, and this pattern is being repeated across the UK as more student accommodation continues to be built, much of it in city centres.

Across the Pennines, Manchester has seen a significant increase in student accommodation developments in the city centre, with a Manchester Evening News Freedom of Information request made two years ago discovering that the gravity of student living was shifting rapidly to the city centre and away from southern suburbs like Rusholme and Fallowfield. Visible signs of new student developments can be seen in the series of towers that have appeared close to Oxford Road Station, with the 19 Wakefield Street development being the tallest student accommodation tower in Europe at the time when it was finished in 2012. 

The same has also been true in cities like Liverpool - where a major student accommodation project next to Lime Street station is currently being built - and Sheffield, where this has accounted for a large increase in the population of the city centre. Vita Student has been part of this trend, with a presence in seven cities, the first of which was a development in Liverpool launched three years ago. 

It is not just in the heart of big cities that new student accommodation is being built. This week has also seen the announcement of a major redevelopment of the University of Teesside's Middlesbrough Campus, which will include new student accommodation.

In this case, the whole campus is in the town centre, unlike in Leeds where the main university sites are located just north of the centre. However, once again the advantages to the students of living close to the heart of local amenities is apparent.