Case study: turning an old office block into flats for supporting living
For our lead feature on commercial to residential conversions, YPN spoke to Lisa Brown and Russ Crabtree, two of the founders of Supported Living Gateway.
Supported Living Gateway is a platform that helps facilitate property investors, developers and care providers to work together to bring the much-needed properties for the supported living sector.
In an article in the October 2021 issue, Lisa and Russ discuss their current project — the conversion of an old office block, to be turned into 16 one-bed flats, each 50 square metres in size. They had been looking for the perfect property to convert to flats in the area but had struggled to find the right building, as most in the area are too old and small. There is ample car parking for support staff, and its proximity to the town centre means that tenants can easily be a part of the community, where they will be able to access jobs and volunteering opportunities. There is also a walled garden, which will become an accessible sensory garden for all the tenants to use.
Why commercial conversions work well
Commercial buildings work really well for supported living, because an increasing number of providers are requesting blocks of one-bed flats. For the tenants, the mixture of privacy with some communal space is a good combination, However, few existing blocks of flats offer accommodation at the preferred size, which is 40-50 square metres. Reconfiguring the often open-plan layout of commercial premises allows the provider or developer to implement accessibility and the required space into the flats.
Unlike many residential blocks of flats, commercial buildings often have a lift (or plenty of space for the installation of a lift). This means all floors will be accessible for people who use wheelchairs or have limited mobility. Furthermore, buildings will often have high ceilings, which allows the installation of enhanced soundproofing if required.
Finally, the installation of specialist technology, such as assistive technology and door entry systems, as well as a high specification of fire systems are much cheaper at the development or refurbishment stage of a project compared to retrofitting them in an already completed building.
Lisa, Russ and all at Supported Living Gateway are certainly showcasing the flexibility that commercial buildings provide for the supported living sector. Find the full article, along with case study figures and detailed insight into the project in the October 2021 issue of YPN.