£60m student accommodation complex approaches completion

CGI of Limelight

Investor-developer, Blacklight Capital Partners’ £60m Liverpool student accommodation project, Limelight, is nearing completion.

After acquiring the former ‘Natex’ scheme out of administration in July 2022, Blacklight implemented a major redesign of the original project, before continuing development of the Norton Street site in the city’s Knowledge Quarter, on the site of the former National Express bus depot.

Phase 1, which welcomed students from October 2023, saw the opening of Block A and 331 studio apartments and ensuite flats.

Communal spaces at the property include a 15th floor sky lounge with panoramic views of the city, privately bookable sky kitchen, dedicated gaming and karaoke room, fitness studio, state of the art gym, cinema, and expansive co-working spaces.

The final phase, which will see Block B and a further 204 rooms open to students, will be completed by the end of spring 2024. In addition to the bedrooms, residents will also benefit from a large wellbeing garden, located between the blocks, that will provide students with an external event and relaxation space, all set within a secure and gated environment.

Limelight studio space

Tom Mees, Development Director at Blacklight, said: “The impending opening of Phase 2 is an incredibly exciting time. This final phase will complement our existing amenities to put our residents on the best possible path whilst studying in the city.

“We recognise that in a student market like Liverpool, our accommodation needs to stand out and be more than just a place to stay. It needs to be a community in its own right and we want to build on that – to make Limelight a lifestyle choice for our guests.”

He added: “That is why the guest experience is at the heart of all design decisions we have made at Limelight. The external amenities and the events it will allow us to put on throughout the year are not replicated anywhere in the city and we are already in talks to host a number of music and food-based events this summer.”

The London-based firm is now eyeing up future opportunities – as well as continuing to develop purpose-built student accommodation, the company is also exploring site acquisitions within the build to rent and co-living sectors.

Blacklight has secured £75m of capital investment from RoundShield Partners, a European special opportunities investment fund, to strengthen its reach in the sector.

Matthew Hunt, Managing Director at Blacklight, said: “We are very excited to complete the Limelight project and believe we are delivering something unique into the Liverpool student accommodation market. We have taken extra care to ensure that our property fits the brief for the modern student’s needs, keeping their mental and physical wellbeing front and centre of everything we offer.

“Looking ahead, we recognise the forecasted growth of the purpose-built student accommodation sector and are keen to fulfil further projects across the country. As we have now demonstrated with two large-scale PBSA schemes in Liverpool, we have a proven track record of delivering state-of-the-art, institutional grade assets for the benefit of the local community, our residents and our investors.”

Limelight accommodation

He added: “We pride ourselves on engaging with best-in-class operator partners to ensure our residents’ experience is the best and will only look to bring schemes forward that meet the rigorous location and design criteria we set ourselves. In the case of Limelight, we opted to partner with Homes for Students who have managed the building and its occupants in an exemplary fashion. Their ethos is very similar to ours and the wonderful relationship between the Homes for Students onsite team and Limelight’s guests demonstrates this.”

Since opening in October 2023, Limelight currently ranks number one on student accommodation review site, StudentCrowd, with reviews posted citing the staff and facilities as among the best in the city. Residents also rated Limelight as ‘excellent’ in a recent Investor in Students survey which measured their check-in and initial impressions back in November.

Blacklight’s emphasis on ESG is also reflected in the Limelight scheme. The building is designed with the latest generation rooftop PV panels, a blue roof, energy-efficient heating in each room and a state-of-the-art insulation solution.

Limelight is the second PBSA asset in Liverpool that Blacklight has delivered. The investment firm acquired the stalled 999-bed ‘Aura’ project on Erskine Street in 2020, ensuring it completed and opened to students before selling it for £110m in September 2022, a record breaking price per bed for the Liverpool market.

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