In a move set to transform the landscape of Leazes Park Road, Newcastle, Vita Student has revealed ambitious plans to replace the closed Barker and Stonehouse furniture shop with a state-of-the-art student accommodation complex. The proposal outlines the construction of 260 studio flats, representing a significant investment of £40 million by the housing firm.
The closed furniture shop, which shuttered its doors in March 2023 in anticipation of a new store opening at the Metrocentre in Gateshead, is poised to undergo a radical makeover. Vita Student envisions not only meeting the burgeoning demand for student housing but also revitalizing the area with what they claim will be “substantial economic, social, and environmental benefits.”
The housing firm has formally submitted its plans to the Newcastle City Council, according to reports from the Local Democracy Reporting Service. Vita Student’s proposal highlights the potential creation of 700 jobs during the construction phase and the promise of 10 full-time positions upon completion, contributing to the local economy.
Crucially, the firm has assured the preservation of the historic Strawberry House building, intricately connected to the erstwhile furniture shop. Vita Student intends to seamlessly integrate this structure into the proposed housing complex. The move is not only a nod to architectural heritage but also a strategic measure to “relieve existing demand and pressure on traditional residential accommodation” in student-popular areas such as Jesmond and Sandyford.
The fate of the project now rests with the Newcastle City Council’s planning committee, which is expected to deliver a verdict in the coming months. Should the green light be given, Vita Student envisions the construction of a six-storey apartment block. This block would not only provide accommodation for 260 students but also offer communal spaces such as lounges, games areas, study spaces, a gym, bike storage, and even a cinema room.
The development, if approved, comes as part of Vita Student’s broader commitment to providing modern, comfortable, and well-equipped living spaces for students. The firm, already managing student housing schemes on neighbouring Strawberry Place and Westgate Road, aims to contribute significantly to the growing demand for purpose-built student accommodation.
While the prospect of a new student housing complex has stirred excitement, some locals remain cautiously optimistic, expressing concerns over potential disruptions during the construction phase and the impact on the character of the surrounding area. Residents eagerly await the council’s decision, which will weigh the economic benefits against the preservation of local character and heritage.
Vita Student’s proposal, beyond its immediate impact on housing, underscores the evolving dynamics of urban spaces, as areas traditionally associated with commercial enterprises transform to meet the changing needs of a dynamic student population. The decision of the Newcastle City Council will undoubtedly shape the future of Leazes Park Road, determining whether it evolves into a vibrant student hub or retains its historical charm amidst the winds of change.