New plans to turn Exeter shopping centre into ‘co-living’ homes and a hotel

New plans for to transform the Harlequins shopping centre in Exeter into a pioneering ‘co-living’ development and hotel have been revealed.

Developer Curlew submitted its original vision for the Paul Street site – tough to be a first for the South West – in November last year.

It was aimed at young professionals or key workers looking for city centre rental accommodation and featured a 114-room hotel with a bar and restaurant.

Amended plans that show the retention of the pedestrian bridge at the Harlequins centre in Exeter. Image: Curlew

Amended plans that show the retention of the pedestrian bridge at the Harlequins centre in Exeter. Image: Curlew

The existing Harlequins shopping centre in Exeter. Image: Daniel Clark

The existing Harlequins shopping centre in Exeter. Image: Daniel Clark

However, the proposals attracted some 255 objections from residents – with just three people expressing their support.

Devon Buildings Group, Exeter historian Todd Gray, Exeter Civic Society and The Victorian Society were among those to oppose the scheme.

Curlew has now confirmed that revised plans will be submitted to Exeter City Council this month to address the concerns raised.

Amended plans that show the retention of the pedestrian bridge at the Harlequins centre in Exeter. Image: Curlew

Amended plans that show the retention of the pedestrian bridge at the Harlequins centre in Exeter. Image: Curlew

Revision to the plans for the redevelopment of the Harlequins centre in Exeter. Image: Curlew

Revision to the plans for the redevelopment of the Harlequins centre in Exeter. Image: Curlew

They will see the overall height of the two blocks that make up the redevelopment reduced by removing a floor from each of the tallest elements.

A block nearest to the Iron Bridge will no longer feature co-living and will be exclusively for hotel use.

The number of co–living beds will also be reduced from 298 to 259.

The hotel accommodation will increase from 114 to 129 rooms.

A pedestrian footbridge that links Harlequins centre to the Guildhall shopping centre will also be replaced, with lift and stairs access from Paul Street.

Greg Fox, senior development manager at Curlew said: ‘’We are confident that Exeter will recover quickly once we are past the current crisis and schemes like ours will  be part of the catalyst for getting the economy back on track by providing jobs and new housing for key workers.

“We want to start work as soon as we can secure a positive planning consent.

‘’With the help of our colleagues from Exeter City Living, and in accordance with Curlew’s commitment to sustainable development, we are delighted that the revised co-living elements of the proposals will be constructed in line with Passivhaus principles.

“This would be our first Passivhaus development and we hope it will act as a trailblazer for other developments in our national portfolio.’’

Revision to the plans for the redevelopment of the Harlequins centre. Image: Curlew

Revision to the plans for the redevelopment of the Harlequins centre in Exeter. Image: Curlew

A Curlew spokesperson added that the development will deliver ‘much-needed improvements to the public realm’ in Paul Street.

It will also feature a ‘pocket park’ next to the Iron Bridge.

A new interactive interpretation centre for the nearby City Wall has also been developed with the help of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum.

The spokesperson added that everyone who has contacted the project team with comments to date has been responded to personally to promote the revisions.

Revised plans with finalised imagery will be published on the city council’s website once they have been submitted in the coming weeks.

An Exeter City Council spokesperson said that, if the plans are formally submitted in the timeframe suggested,  a decision could be made in either June or July.

The existing Harlequins shopping centre. Image: Daniel Clark

The existing Harlequins shopping centre in Exeter. Image: Daniel Clark

Changes from the original Harlequins scheme – Curlew says:

  • The overall height of the buildings will be reduced by the removal of the top floors of each building;
  • Block two has become purely a hotel, with a total of 129 bedrooms;
  • Block one will consist of 259 co-living beds;
  • For block one, additional vertical emphasis of the design has been proposed within the stair columns. The top floor, however, has been treated with a contemporary approach;
  • The façade of block two has been substantially remodelled, not only adopting the top floor approach as with block one, but also breaking up the elevations with a mix of materials to provide a vertical emphasis and produce a scheme more reminiscent of a townhouse terrace;
  • The façade of block two facing Northernhay will be the same as that of Paul Street. However, in addition a Green Wall has been created, replacing the previous blank façade. This will be a simple wire anchored solution which will, over time, cover the whole wall;
  • It was originally intended that the pedestrian bridge be removed that links Harlequins to the Guildhall. But the revised proposals include a replacement footbridge in the same location as the existing, with lift and stair access from Paul Street. The pedestrian bridge is an important and popular route, which supports trade within the Guildhall.

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