Creating a new home of learning for the University of Cambridge’s brightest minds
North West Cambridge
University of Cambridge
Taking on the largest real estate project in the university’s history was never simply about the numbers. To continue attracting the world’s best students, the 800-year-old institution knew it had to overcome Cambridge’s housing shortage by taking matters into its own hands.
The leafy US lifestyles of Yale and MIT was beginning to come out on top over expensive and constrained Cambridge, so the university did what it does best. It tore up the rule book and pushed the boundaries of what is possible in large-scale development.
North West Cambridge will eventually deliver 3,000 new homes, 2,000 student bed spaces and 100,000 sq m of employment space across 90 acres. When you’re focussed on solving the world’s biggest problems you need an advisory team to ensure your challenging development project doesn’t become one too.
Luring the very best post-graduate researchers to the city would take imagination but the project needed broader appeal and a dose of commercial realism. We helped the university match its vision to the market while avoiding recreating development norms.
Our development consultancy advice shaped the brand, defined and reviewed the master plan, forward funded development and set the land disposal strategy. Each land parcel talked to the other.
We didn’t simply go through the motions. Conveying the university’s vision to the market needed a deep understanding of the design language required from development partners. We made sure that design and sustainability standards lived up to the marketing story.
A primary school and supermarket were built before anyone moved in and land parcels were patiently sold to developers who committed to the vision and were prepared to wait to realise the value of a premium product.
By integrating the long-term outlook of the university team and the commercial imperatives of housebuilding developers, we optimised sales values and helped secured land prices way above anything else achieved before in Cambridge.
When you are known around the world for breakthroughs, it comes naturally to become the first place in the city to build new family homes for rent. But although building private rental apartments in Cambridge isn’t new – pioneering the model for the family homes market is.
We persuaded the university to adapt its own selection process to choose the right partner and conclude a land deal that puts a flag on the map for both landowner and developer. The chosen partner has a stellar site that meets its own impeccable sustainability targets and the university will set a new direction for an emerging asset class.