Just a few hundred yards from Emirates Stadium, Arsenal's previous home Highbury continues to undergo its transformation from football stadium to luxury apartments.
Due for completion next year, the stunning Highbury Square re-development is certainly taking shape, and as you can see from the pictures, many of the traditional elements of the building have been preserved.
The matchday programme caught up with Acting Managing Director Ken Friar OBE for the latest on the development.
Q. How is the redevelopment at Highbury Square progressing?
A. Very well. The development is being executed in phases and our contractors, Sir Robert McAlpine, are on time or ahead of schedule with each of the phases. What I find amazing is even though the old stadium is transforming into apartments at a rapid pace now, it still feels like the old Highbury. You can envisage the pitch and the stands and it brings back such fond memories. A real sense of history remains there.
Q. When is the development due for completion?
A. The summer of 2009 is when Highbury Square will be fully complete but as with any major development of this scale, we have phased handovers of finished units from now through to the end of the construction works. The first and second phases of finished units, 136 apartments in total, have now been handed over to us by Sir Robert McAlpine and we already have over 90 purchasers completed. In fact, some residents have already moved in to their apartments in the South Stand, the site of the old Clock End.
Q. How many apartments have been sold?
A. There are a total of 680 apartments in the development of which 655 apartments have been marketed so far. Of these, 598 have already been presold, which represents over 90 per cent of the development, a figure that we are obviously extremely pleased with. As mentioned, over 90 purchasers have completed so far, generating some £39 million of sales income.
A completed apartment
Q. That sounds promising. How does the Board envisage using the profit made from the sale of Highbury Square?
A. The financials for the Highbury Square development have been ring-fenced so they are separate from our usual football business. As such we have not budgeted for the profit and this allows the Board to be flexible over its use as the money has not been earmarked for anything in particular. In that sense it will be a bonus. We have options available to us, for example, profits could be used to reduce the stadium debt or to strengthen the team if the manager wishes.
Q. There has been some suggestion that a significant number of purchasers have pulled out of the development. Is this true and if so, why do you think that is the case?
A. Absolutely not, this is completely untrue. To date, we have had just two purchasers who, due to personal circumstances, had to pull out and both of these were over six months ago. As it stands, we believe that we continue to outperform the market and indeed a recent independent valuation by Colleys concluded that all of the Highbury Square apartments have exceeded the prices contracted to be paid for them. However, we are not complacent or short-sighted about the current economic climate and with this in mind, we have enlisted the support of Savills Private Finance to assist purchasers in achieving finance where they require it.
Q.What are the long-term prospects for the Highbury Square development?
A. Property that has unique qualities, by virtue of location and character, always maintains its value relative to the market and is always the first to realise an increase in value. This is definitely the case with Highbury Square, which is in an excellent location, in terms of connections in and out of central London. The development also captures the history and character of Highbury Stadium with the East and West Stand facades retained and the pitch constructed into a private two-acre garden for residents which, we believe, is the largest private London Square to have been built this century. In addition, Highbury and Islington as a whole is a highly desirable location for purchasers and tenants alike, so we believe the future prospects for Highbury Square are very positive.
Q.What type of properties are still for sale?
A. There are only 57 units which are unsold and these are a mix of one and two bedroom apartments.
Q. How will you feel once the development is complete?
A. It will offer a tremendously unique place to live for all those who have bought an apartment there and in that sense it will be truly exciting. To live in a home in the ‘home of football’ gives it added sparkle but for me personally, it will close an eventful chapter of my life.
For more information about Highbury Square please call 0845 262 6000 or visit the website at www.thestadium-highbury.com.Copyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 20 Oct 2008