Build to Rent bounces back – UNCLE opens its latest scheme in Wembley

10 July 2020 | Investment

Well-known rental brand UNCLE recently opened its fifth property within its rapidly expanding chain of serviced rental apartments.

Made up of two towers of 21 and 26 storeys, and crafted by ‘individually hand-laid bricks’, the firm describes UNCLE Wembley as an ‘architecturally striking addition’ to the London skyline.

The property, which takes its design inspiration from the famed architecture of the Roaring Twenties, includes 239 rental apartments with a mix of open market and discounted price points available, in order to attract residents from all walks of life.

The new scheme will offer a choice of furnished and unfurnished apartments, with the furnished element provided by contemporary Danish brand Bo Concept.

In line with its modus operandi of offering a kinder rental experience through its on-site resident managers, UNCLE says it has ensured that amenities in the buildings are also focused around enhancing the physical and mental wellbeing of its residents.

These include a fitness studio with Technogym equipment and a TRX wall; a Zen Zone which incorporates a state-of-the art InHere Meditation Studio; a rooftop terrace and BBQ area; and, in honour of Netflix’s new hit series The Last Dance, an indoor 3-point basketball court ‘so you too can feel like Michael Jordan (and Drake)’.

Against the backdrop of Covid-19, which has posed some significant challenges to the Build to Rent/co-living movements, UNCLE has introduced an extensive health and safety regime to ensure the brand is adhering ‘not only to the government guidelines, but also common sense’.

The brand offers virtual viewings and ‘contactless move-ins’ to all new residents. It has also applied specific Covid safety protocols such as ‘Fogging Cleaning’ of all common areas, parcel deliveries to residents’ front door and etiquette for lifts and other shared spaces.

As well as the new scheme in Wembley, UNCLE also has developments in Elephant & Castle, Stockwell, New Cross and Piccadilly (Manchester), with a sixth location set to open in Southall (a future Crossrail hub) later this year and two more under development, bringing the confirmed pipeline to nine locations.

Its 45-storey tower in Elephant & Castle is the largest BTR development in the UK.

Ryan Prince, chief executive and founder of UNCLE, said: “The UNCLE brand was created to tackle the crisis of compassion that we see in the world.  We’re not about newsworthy gimmicks. We believe that doing lots of little things right can add up to make a big difference in people’s lives – simple things like the resident manager who knows your name, guaranteed repairs and parcels to your door during this time.”

“None of these are earth-shattering, but they add up. We’re confident that if we take care of our residents, they’ll take care of each other and, together we’ll build the neighbourhoods we all want to live in.”

He added: “Starting a new community is certainly not easy at the moment. On the one hand, we’re making sure that we over-index on all social distancing and hygiene measures as this is paramount to creating a level of trust. On the other, people aren’t made to live in a vacuum, so they need to be able to interact with each other and the outside world and we’ve created programmes and ways for them to do that too.”

Prince said that, similar to consumer brands in other categories such as hotels and airlines, UNCLE hopes that if it does things right, one building at a time, its mission is to become the go-to brand name for renters.

“We’re initially focused in London and the UK, but eventually we have the ambition to be present in major cities throughout the world,” he said.

Why has Wembley become a BTR hotspot?

Wembley is already a very popular location for BTR developments, largely due to the presence of Quintain’s BTR brand Tipi, which is responsible for the lion’s share of the new homes in Wembley Park.

Tipi, which only launched in 2016, announced in February 2017 that Wembley Park was set to become the largest BTR development site in the UK, with 5,000 homes delivered by 2024, all of them under the management of the brand.

Once rundown, unloved and neglected, despite the presence of Wembley Stadium and Wembley Arena, the area has been experiencing something of a renaissance in recent times thanks to the significant regeneration of Wembley Park, the excellent transport links into Central London, and the arrival of Boxpark Wembley, Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre and London Designer Outlet.

It has one of the most lively, diverse and interesting high streets of anywhere in suburban London, and also has plentiful nearby green space in the form of Fryent Country Park, Barham Park and King Edward VII Park.

The new UNCLE Wembley scheme is within five minutes’ walk of both Wembley Central and Wembley Park underground stations, with a direct connection to Baker Street and Marylebone within half an hour. It’s also a 10-minute walk to Wembley Park, where London Designer Outlet, the Troubadour theatre, Boxpark, Brent Civic Centre, 27 affordable art studios, The Yellow (a social space for local people) and the SSE Arena can all be found.

Broken down, the development will have 171 market rate rental units and 68 units subject to rent price restrictions, as well as 7,300 sq ft of commercial space, 3,000 sq ft of internal amenity area, 3,330 sq ft of external terraced area, 17 car parking and 430 bicycle spaces and 1,635 sq ft of community space.

How did UNCLE first come about?

Ryan Prince established UNCLE in 2017 after being left frustrated and surprised by the lack of any consumer brand in the rental living space.

One of the early pioneers of the BTR movement in London, the brand says its mission is to offer a ‘kind-hearted service in design-savvy apartments, combined with a straight-talking, no-nonsense approach for renters from all backgrounds who are tired of being treated like second-class citizens’.

In the three years since its launch, UNCLE has opened five locations across London and Manchester with a net promoter score of over 90%.

The BTR brand is owned by Realstar UK, which owns more than £1 billion of property in Britain, including several student accommodation brands. Realstar has been a player in the UK property market for over 18 years and has since acquired or developed in excess of £2.5 billion in assets.

This post has originally been featured in Property Investor Today.