This article from Bernie Topham, Chief Operating Officer, provides an update on a range of activities currently taking place in the University estate, with more details on Mercantile House and information on a public exhibition being held by Unite on their plans for a major new student halls development. Please contact Bernie if you have any feedback or would like further information on any of these issues.
Director of Estates and Campus Services
Recruitment is now underway for this post which will oversee a new service bringing together the existing Campus Services, Estates and Estates Operations teams. Early indications are that there is strong interest in the role. Interviews will take place in early May.
Estates strategy and master plan
The Shaping our Future conversation has demonstrated the strength of feeling around the University both to improve our current estate and to be bold and visionary when looking at how we might invest in future developments and facilities. I will shortly be putting together plans for how we will carry out the estates master plan and getting some master planning consultants and others on board to assist us. The ideas that have emerged through the consultation on our future will be immensely helpful. I intend to carry out further consultation once we get going with the master plan and will provide further information on this and how to get involved once we are ready to go. The master plan will be a major piece of work taking six months or more and will give us the opportunity to not only improve our own facilities, with the benefit of a long term financing strategy, but also to make a positive impact on Portsmouth city centre, thus playing a central role in the plan to regenerate the city.
Mercantile House is one of the University’s most prominent buildings due to its height and central location. It was originally constructed for office use but it has subsequently been used for a mix of office and teaching space and a data centre. The building is in need of total refurbishment and a number of potential end uses have been considered. In 2012 a preferred developer was appointed and planning permission secured to convert it to student accommodation. Mercantile House has, in the meantime, performed a very useful role as decant space for a range of uses.The Shaping our Future exercise and the decision to develop a comprehensive master plan of the entire University estate has led to a review as to whether now is the right time to proceed with student accommodation on this valuable site since we would not want to restrict our options for the future. It has been decided not to progress with student accommodation in Mercantile House but to consider its future use as part of the wider master plan. The need for decant space continues and we will continue to use the building as useful ‘wriggle room’ in the meantime.
The £9 million refurbishment of the Portland Building is progressing well and the contractors, Midas, are on track to complete in line with the planned programme and budget. The refurbishment will create new accommodation for the School of Engineering and Surveying, Portsmouth Business School and Information Services. In addition to a completely new fit out, additional space will be created by infilling existing floor voids and there will be a new glazed entrance lobby creating a much better entry. The environmental performance of the building will also be improved by, for example, LED lighting throughout and a new heating and ventilation system, which will both help our carbon footprint and reduce energy costs.
The works are currently at strip out stage. The building has been completely gutted, including the removal of a redundant central staircase. The refurbishment is due to be completed in time for the start of the new academic year.
New Theatre Royal
In an innovative partnership with the New Theatre Royal, this autumn will see the completion of a new £8 million facility for CCI which will be linked to a refurbished Theatre. This imposing new building is now taking shape with steelwork in place and the contractors are coping well with the challenges of attaching a newly constructed contemporary building to a characterful existing Victorian building which has seen its fair share of disasters, such as major fire.
Library Ground Floor
The University Library is increasingly popular with students and although it is an excellent facility, feedback from the NSS showed that the social learning and IT facilities should be improved. As a result, plans have been approved for an exciting £4 million refurbishment that will remodel the ground floor to create new social learning space, enhance the IT provision, increase the café space and improve the enquiry and information services. Works are scheduled to be undertaken during the 2014 summer vacation.
The project team have mitigation and communication plans in place to deal with any disruption to students, including postgraduates, who will need to use library services during the summer period.
This winter saw more major leaks in Park Building and it has therefore been decided to carry out major repairs costing around £1.7 million to the entire roof during the summer break. The contract will take around 4-5 months.
James Watson Building
The ground floor of James Watson Building has not been a particularly pleasant place at times recently, with too frequent occurrences of various unsavoury leaks largely due to substandard pipework. Unite own the building and we are currently in discussions with them about remediation works to prevent future leaks, with phase 1 due to take place this summer.
Proposed new student accommodation at Greetham Street
Student accommodation providers Unite are currently carrying out consultation on a proposed major new addition to first year student accommodation in the city on the current Greetham Street Car Park. They intend to submit a planning application in the early summer for a flagship scheme of around 800 bedspaces on the site. The scheme is obviously still at design stage but they have been in regular dialogue with the University about their proposals and intend that the new halls will match the best that they offer around the UK. The new halls will be a multi storey building with a large amount of common space and, while it will tower over nearby halls, it will give us the opportunity to create a real student campus environment in that location if approved. A public exhibition is taking place on 2 and 3 April, between 4.00pm and 7.00pm in the Menuhin Room at the Central Library, so do go along if you’re interested. They are also working with the Student Union to hopefully get some display boards up in the Union Building towards the end of April.