The first residents have moved into the 17-storey Juniper House building after construction finished in August. A quarter of its private sale flats have not been sold yet
By Marco Marcelline
A brand new residential tower block opposite Walthamstow Central Station has opened to residents.
Called Juniper House, the building was constructed by The Hill Group on behalf of Waltham Forest Council, and it comprises 91 homes, 50% of which the council says are affordable.
Plans to build the 17-storey, 91-flat building were agreed in June 2019, and construction began later that year with an expected finish in 2021. Hill Group did not finish construction works until August this year, however, amid negotiations with the council over an increase in costs that, according to an official report, risked turning into a legal battle.
Earlier this year, the council report laid bare the financial troubles afflicting the project. After the project became £4million more expensive than the £37.7m budget agreed four years previously, the council revised prior expectations of a £2.6m profit down to a £562,000 loss.
According to the report, nearly half of the increase in costs was down to Hill Partnerships requesting an additional £1.8m from Waltham Forest because of “Covid-19″and “significant cost inflation to both materials and labour” caused by “global and national market conditions”.
The building had previously been vacant council offices. It’s the third residential building by the Waltham Forest Capital Delivery team to be completed this year and it includes 23 flats for social rent, and 18 for shared ownership.
On its official website, 15 of the total 50 private buy flats are marked as still available, while a further nine are marked as reserved. The cheapest flat, a one-bedroom, is on sale for £390,000 (the average price for a flat in outer London was £347,500 in March 2023), while the most expensive, a two-bed, is on offer for £590,000.
As well as new homes, the development includes two floors that will be dedicated to part of the new University of Portsmouth campus.
The university campus, the borough’s first, will initially occupy two floors in Juniper House. The first undergraduate students will start in September 2024, while postgraduate students will begin their studies in February 2024. The university campus’ main building will be in the as yet uncompleted Central House on Hoe Street.
Juniper House also contains a 53-place pre-school nursery with its own play area, while the council has boasted about the building’s “low-carbon” heating that is provided by communal air source heat pumps and solar panels.
The development also includes biodiversity measures such as bat boxes and a ‘brown’ roof while a revamped “pocket park” at the nearby junction of First Avenue and Hoe Street will be delivered in 2024 as part of wider Walthamstow revitalisation works paid for by a government Levelling Up fund worth £18m.
The council’s housing lead Ahsan Khan said: “We have made good on our promise to bring more high-quality affordable housing to Waltham Forest residents at an extremely challenging financial time for councils across the country.
“The completion of Juniper House is a monumental achievement when interest rates are continuing to rise in the housebuilding sector. We are doing our part to tackle the housing crisis by building the right homes in the right places to help local people get on the property ladder and live close to their friends, family, and support networks.”
Simon Trice, managing director at The Hill Group commented: “We are delighted to have partnered with Waltham Forest Council to deliver these much-needed homes at Juniper House.
“The new residents will now be able to enjoy living in high-quality, sustainable new homes designed to provide excellent energy-efficient features and help reduce running costs. Today marks the beginning of many happy memories for the new community living at this exceptional development.”
In a press release, the council said that further works to on-site commercial spaces will continue into next year, with their opening scheduled for “late 2024”.