by Richard Williams | August 20, 2021

The company that had to abandon the development of the old cinema site in the heart of Tunbridge Wells is behind new plans for an alternative £ 55million retirement village just a mile down the road .

Elysian Residences is part of a joint venture to build 89 apartments as well as penthouses and hotel-style facilities in St John’s Road on the site of the former Aviva bus depot.

Previously, it had to abandon plans for a similar development on the cinema plot when, it is understood, backers raised concerns about ongoing costs. This development was priced at £ 80million.

OLD PLAN: Artist’s impression of the Belvédère layout previously proposed for the cinema site

This move once again highlights the major challenges of the development of the ABC site in the city center, which has been vacant for more than 20 years.

The land alone is currently priced at £ 17million, making it financially unsustainable for most investors.

The St John’s Road location already has a building permit. The other people involved in the project are the UK Retirement Living Fund (ReLF), managed by Schroders Capital and advised by Octopus Real Estate.

The new development is the second joint venture between Elysian and ReLF, following the purchase in April of this year of a site for a new pension scheme in Berkhamsted.

It is also the eighth retirement village developed or managed by Elysian Residences, although the group was unable to materialize a similar complex on the site of the ABC cinema.

Gavin Stein, CEO of Elysian, told the Times Tuesday August 17th: “Fortunately, we are back in the community with this site we acquired on St John’s Road, which enjoys a prime location in the city, close to restaurants, shops, museums and other amenities as well as easy connectivity for families and friends.

“This is also our eighth pension scheme in total and we will continue to research new locations as part of our vision to be the UK’s premier provider of inspiring and stylish retirement communities.

“It’s incredibly nice to be able to have a new program at Royal Tunbridge Wells where we’ve spent time getting to know the local community for the past three years.

“The St John’s Road project is slated for delivery in 2024, subject to minor building permit changes to bring the Elysian brand and experience to life.”

Kevin Beirne, head of retirement at Octopus Real Estate, which supports the new retirement development of the old Aviva depot, said it was delivering a good return for investors.

He explained, “This latest acquisition emphasizes our belief that retiree communities provide investors with solid returns and an opportunity to create a positive impact for our aging society by delivering beautifully designed and sustainable real estate. “

Despite this, the new complex is just over a mile from the £ 80million Belvedere project which had been assigned to the ABC site but was not deemed able to provide ‘positive feedback’ to its. owner.

The planned ‘live later’ movie site on Mount Pleasant Road was originally developed by the site’s former owners, Altitude, who sold the land with its building permit to Prime Finance in 2018.

Prime Finance partnered with Elysian Residences to build and manage the luxury retirement village, which would have been complemented by a boutique cinema, shops and a restaurant.

During the pandemic, Elysian told the Times they were “evaluating their plans” for the site before being forced to withdraw in October of last year.

Prime Finance has put the land up for sale again for £ 17million.

By writing in this week’s printed copy of TimesTunbridge Wells Borough Council Deputy Chief David Scott said the council was in constant talks with Prime Finance about the site.

He said: “The Board meets with owners at every opportunity to explore solutions and lobby for development.

“The owner continues to actively work on his options, but his need for a positive ROI remains. “

TWO DECADES OF FRUSTRATION

THE CINEMA SITE: Still not developed

Elysian’s decision underlines just how unattractive the former ABC Cinema land in Tunbridge Wells is to potential investors.

The site has been abandoned since 2000, when the house of images closed. Since then it has passed many hands, but remains an abandoned place in the center of the city.

Chronology

2000 ABC Cinema is closing its doors after operating in Tunbridge Wells for 80 years.

2004 The site is acquired by GLN Copenhagen but despite a planning investigation, the company does not submit any formal plan.

2008 Rydall Properties acquires the land and obtains approval for a mixed-use development.

2011 Bellhouse Joseph / Carlye acquires the site and submits plans for a new project.

2013 Hope looms on the horizon as Bellhouse Joseph demolishes the old cinema.

2015 Two years later, the site is back on the market.

2016 Altitude Immobilier acquires the site.

2018 Altitude obtains a new agreement for mixed-use development.

2019 The land is bought by Prime Finance, which joins forces with Elysian Residences, which bases its development project on Altitude’s building permit.

2020 The planned development of the site should begin but the Covid-19 leads to the suspension of work. Elysian Residences are beginning to “assess” their plans in the aftermath of the pandemic before withdrawing. The site is then put back on the market.

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