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How the Met has been turned into luxury pads for the city's students

Published 17/02/2016

A kitchen from the new student accommodation
A kitchen from the new student accommodation
A kitchen from the new student accommodation
A bedroom from the new student accommodation
A bathroom from the new student accommodation
The former Belfast Metropolitan college building

A £16m facelift at the former Belfast Metropolitan college building has seen it transformed into accommodation for students. Angela Rainey took a tour.

It's not like any student flat I've ever been in before.

Housed in one of the most iconic buildings in the city centre, the all-inclusive accommodation on College Square East will house 413 students when it is officially opened in September.

The contemporary refurbishment of the former Grade II Belfast Metropolitan College has created plush surroundings comprising luxury double rooms with en suites, studios and modern communal areas, with prices ranging from £125 to £180 a week.

Students will also benefit from access to the Great Hall, with its original stained-glass windows and stunning parquet flooring, as well as two additional rooms for quiet study.

Only students who have accepted a place on a full-time university or college course can apply for a tenancy, which lasts for up to 44 or 50 weeks. Partners who are also in full-time education can also share a room, halving the rent.

The rooms have been banded in to packages ranging from the cheaper Bronze studio to the pricier Platinum Plus studio with £150 booking fee that is then secured as a deposit.

English firm Fresh Student Living will manage the facility, which includes WiFi, insurance cover of up to £2,500, heating and electricity all included in the weekly rental.

The building will be accessible 24 hours a day with security and an on-site management office to assist with any issues like noise complaints.

Director of operations Jane Crouch said the project is the first by the firm in Northern Ireland and is similar to those that the company manages throughout the UK.

"We are pleased to now say that we operate all over the UK," said Ms Crouch.

"The accommodation is of a contemporary standard and we believe that the rent is comparable to what is available in the area.

"If students rent a small house they may think they are getting it cheaper, but when you factor in that all the bills are included, John Bell House is a better option.

"Plus, it is not designed as a hall of residence with long dark corridors; the accommodation has been designed in flats, so three friends can rent a flat in the building together or in other sized groups."

Students can book the room they want online, and will be asked to provide a guarantor and proof of acceptance onto a full time course.

"We have a retention rate of 38%, that is, students who stay year on year, which is high," added Ms Crouch.

"When students go on holiday or away for Christmas they have the convenience of being able to leave their stuff knowing it is secure, which is a plus point for a lot of people."

But she warns there'll be no tolerance of students hoping to live up to the old stereotype of partying and living in squalor.

Rooms will be inspected every three months and there is zero tolerance of any form of anti-social behaviour.

She said: "It's in the tenancy agreement that we will not accept any form of abusive behaviour or harassment against any residents.

"The use of drugs is an absolute no.

"People can invite five or six friends round with permission and security will be on hand to check nothing gets out of hand or disturbs other residents.

"We want people to enjoy living here, but respectfully, and so far evictions from any of our properties have been rare."

Refurbishment has been ongoing for a year by construction firm O'Hare & McGovern, with its first residents expected on September 19.

Belfast Telegraph

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