Life & Culture

Religious conversion for retirees


A landmark grade II listed building in Mill Hill, north-west London is to be transformed into 115 studio suites for the retirement market. Following many years as home to the St Joseph's Society for Foreign Missionaries, St Joseph's College has been granted planning permission for conversion.

With more than 115,000 sq ft of accommodation in seven wings, which includes 230 bedrooms, a theatre, a dining room, a large kitchen, numerous training rooms and a large chapel, the property stands within mature grounds of about seven acres, in an elevated position to the south of the Ridgeway.

There is also a pond, disused tennis court and a large parking area. The property falls within the C2 Use Class (residential institution).

Agents Knight Frank and Marks International are looking for interested parties to take this development opportunity forward or alternatively look for other college/school users to continue educating people at St Joseph's.

Knight Frank's Emma Cleugh says: "St Joseph's College will make the most stunning setting for a retirement development or for continuation as a school. Opportunities like this, of this size and scale, in such an amazing position with the benefit of the panoramic views of London are incredibly rare. Institutional properties such as this are currently very appealing development opportunities and we have had a good level of interest in the building from a very broad range of potential purchasers."

Nick Marks, director of Marks International, says: "The timing of the launch of St Joseph's on to the market has coincided with a sharp upturn in inquiries for this sort of opportunity, particularly from overseas investor/developers."

The market for retirement homes is burgeoning, according to a Knight Frank report. Liam Bailey, Knight Frank's head of residential research, comments: "An explosion of grey hair has significant implications for the future of retirement housing and the wider residential market. Older households will represent half of all household growth between now and 2026 and it is important that the development, construction and care industries recognise this opportunity.

"Thinking and practice in the UK retirement sector has long lagged behind innovation in Australia, Scandinavia, America and New Zealand. Retirement villages have been popular for decades in these countries. However in the UK, there are still relatively few, implying there are strong prospects for growth as the concept becomes better understood."

"The growth in popularity of retirement villages stems, fairly obviously, from our increasingly ageing population and the growing assets its holds, but also from a growing tendency for older people to place a positive emphasis on the need for security, socialising opportunities and convenience. The need to release equity through a downsizing move may also impel a greater shift towards specialised retirement housing."

In the UK, the majority of the over-65s (89 per cent) live in "mainstream housing". Just six per cent (that is some 500,000 households) live in specialist retirement housing and five per cent (some 400,000 units) live in institutions for example residential care or nursing care accommodation.

Guide price for St Josephs is £25 million for the freehold.

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