A successful Hull businessman has said he is excited by the opportunity to transform an empty historic Hull building into a ‘truly aspirational place to live’, having stepped in to buy the property after London investors pulled out of a proposed deal.
Planning permission to convert the Grade II listed Kings Buildings, in South Church Side, into 24 apartments was approved by councilors earlier this year.
However, when the country went into lockdown in March, the project fell through and funders walked away from the deal.
Now, city businessman Paul Luen (pictured above right, with Paul White of Garness Jones, left) has stepped in, paying in excess of £1 million to secure the building in purchase and costs, and set about transforming the four-storey property into ‘something truly special for Hull’.
He plans to sell the one, two and three-bedroom apartments to ‘owner-occupiers’, helping to further increase city living and help Hull city centre continue its recent regeneration.
“I’m really excited by this opportunity and I am confident we can do something truly special here,” said Mr Luen, who has bought the building as part of his Lucava investments business.
“I am Hull born and bred and I am hugely passionate about the city, so for me this is an opportunity to do something really exciting.
“With all that has been happening in and around Trinity Square, such as the upgrade of Trinity Market, the continued development of the Fruit Market and with the plans to breathe new life into Whitefriargate, it just seemed the perfect time to take something like this on.
“The aim will be to raise the standard and create a truly aspirational place to live in the city, selling to owner occupiers who live and work in Hull, creating a new community within the building itself.”
Historic building will retain original features
Mr Luen says he had been keeping a watching brief on what was happening with Kings Buildings, which were originally built between 1866 and 1875 and have housed Hull Telephones Club, a shopping arcade and a market in the past.
However, he admits he was surprised to be called by commercial agent Paul White, of Garness Jones, this summer to discuss potentially buying the property.
“I think everything just fell into place at the right time. I’d been offered the chance to buy the building a couple of years back but the time just wasn’t right for me with my other business activities,” he said.
“However, when Paul White called me to explain that the London investors had dropped out, and asked whether I’d be interested, it came at just the right time.
“I’ve had my investment company about seven years, and have invested in other areas of Yorkshire and the Humber, but not my own city. I saw this as the ideal opportunity to put something back.
“Obviously, with the impact of Covid-19 everybody has been predicting doom and gloom and a crash in the property market, but what the London-based investors saw as a risk, I have seen as an opportunity which can’t be missed for Hull.”
Standing in the shadow of Hull Minster, the attractive period property has been stripped back to bare brick on its upper floors and has large open plan spaces, with views over the Minster and out towards the Humber.
These historic features are something Mr Luen says will not only be retained, but now made a feature.
He said: “When Paul took me around the property I was blown away by its history and character. It has amazing open spaces, high ceilings and exposed brickwork which I want to retain. It lends itself perfectly to creating apartments with big open spaces, which is what people are calling for now given we are spending much more time working from home.
“We have to assure an exemplary standard of conservation as the building is listed, so being respectful to its heritage is key and we’ll try and retain as many original features as possible, including the internal architecture and the external iron pipes and drains.”
Mr Luen says he expects the project to be completed by the end of 2021, with apartments ranging in price from £160,000 to in excess of £300,000 for three, three bedroomed penthouse apartments.
Property agent delighted to secure respected and trusted buyer after setback
Paul White, agency director at Garness Jones, says the deal is further evidence of the changing face of Hull city centre.
“It would have been a major blow to see a project like this fall away because of Covid-19 and I think we have to be really grateful that a successful local businessman like Paul has taken this on for his home city and has set out plans to make it a first-class development,” he said.
“When the London investors walked away it was a difficult situation for my client given the plans to convert the building had progressed. Paul was one of the first people I thought of approaching as he is a respected and trusted businessman, and I am delighted he saw the opportunity.
“I am really pleased for him and also my client who was selling the freehold, but also for the city because this will be another excellent residential development on the back of many others in the city centre in recent times.”