IT’S the seventh tallest building in Portsmouth and was once home to more than 1,000 office workers.
Today, after eight years of talks, negotiations, plans and building work, the 14-storey tower is on target to become home for 1,000 university students after a £51m investment.
Catherine House, formerly Zurich House, in Stanhope Road, has opened its show studio and is taking bookings from students looking for accommodation.
There are 300 builders busily working onsite to prepare the rest of the building, including the new rear extension, ahead of its official September opening.
Site manager Eamonn Laverty, who works for construction company McAleer & Rushe, which bought the building from Zurich in 2007, said: ‘It was all a real mess.
‘It lay derelict for about eight years so when we started work it was damp inside and there were pigeons and everything, on top of that we had a lot of concrete repairs to do as the steel in the concrete had started to decarbonate so we had to spend a million pounds doing that before we started.
‘It was a lot of work, and we needed to do a lot surveys to put everything back together again.’
Building work started in August 2015 and is on target to finish in August. Once complete there will be room for 1,000 students made up of 300 self-contained studios and 700 in ‘cluster’ flats – a more traditional set-up with a shared kitchen between four and six people – with rooms ranging in size from 16.5sq m to 30sq m.
The property is now owned by The Student Housing Company, which was set up in 2011 and has nine purpose-built sites across six UK cities.
Sarah Linton-Walls, marketing director, said: ‘We have a great location in the centre of town right in the middle of the local amenities students want.’