A £100m student living scheme in Liverpool that was originally started by Elliot Group has been completed by Vermont backed by investors in 50 countries. Tony McDonough reports
Construction firm Vermont has delivered the final phase of a £100m student development in Liverpool that was originally started by Elliot Group.
Formerly known as Aura, the scheme in Norfolk Street in the Baltic Triangle comprises 999 residential units. Now called the True Student building it also includes a café, a gym and a sky lounge offering panoramic views of the city.
It was one of four Elliot Group schemes that fell into administration following the arrest of company founder Elliot Lawless by Merseyside Police in December 2019. He was detained as part of the wider Operation Aloft probe into deals between property developers and Liverpool City Council.
He was released without charge shortly afterwards. The High Court later refused a police application to extend his bail and declared the search warrant and the search of his home unlawful. The police subsequently agreed to pay Mr Lawless’s legal fees and he continues to maintain his innocence.
However, the fallout from the arrest rocked investor confidence, causing the collapse of the four schemes. He says this made it impossible to bring in external funding to complete them.
Aura, originally worth £70m, was put into administration in January 2020. Two months later a 450-strong consortium of its original investors agreed a deal with administrators David Rubin & Partners to take over the project. The investors are based in 50 different countries.
Assisted by Blacklight Capital they were able to secure all necessary funding to ensure completion of the development. They struck an agreement with Liverpool construction firm Vermont to finish the build.
The first phase of the project, comprising 563 student units, was handed over in September last year. The final 436 units are now ready for this September’s student intake.
Mark Connor, chief executive of Vermont, said: “The completion of this scheme is a absolute credit to all involved. This includes the fantastic Vermont project team, our supply chain and design team partners, together with the investors and their professional team.
“Despite the obvious challenges Vermont committed to finishing the project with the investors. It is a testament to the determination and pragmatism of all of the various stakeholders that we have been able to ensure the scheme could be completed as originally envisaged.
“This is without doubt the biggest challenge we’ve faced since we established Vermont back in 2004, both in terms of the project’s scale and complexity. This, combined with a complete redesign of the ground floor following recommencement, was always going to be a massive test for the team. It was one we were confident we could deliver – and we did.
“This is a fantastic advert for what our team at Vermont can deliver. It’s a great result for the investors and indeed the city.”