GLUM TO GLAM: Notorious '˜eyesore' Blackpool buildings restored to their former glory
One was a fire-damaged eyesore, its neighbour was such a notorious stag and hen venue the council closed it down.
There seemed no future for this pair of blighted hotels on Blackpool’s Albert Road.
But for the last few months scaffolding has shrouded the former Malibu and Astoria guesthouses - and when it was removed it revealed the transformation of the buildings back to their Victorian glory.
Ugly rooflifts have been removed, ill-designed extensions demolished and chiselled features restored.
Meanwhile inside, walls have been knocked through and extensive refurbishment has seen the properties converted to modern, contemporary homes.
By the beginning of next year, they will be ready to let.
However this is not just a one-off housing scheme, this project is part of a long-term investment to raise the standard of private rented accommodation across Blackpool.
The Blackpool Housing Company has been set up to buy failed holiday accommodation and transform it to good quality homes which will be well managed.
Funded through a £26m government loan, it is hoped this intervention will break the cycle of guesthouses being converted to houses in multiple occupation, offering cheap rents and attracting unruly tenants whose presence damages the resort’s holiday areas.
David Galvin, managing director of the Blackpool Housing Company, says the aim is to deliver good quality homes, at commercial but affordable rents, and in doing so force up standards and drive out bad landlords.
He said: “I believe there is a market for good, quality lettings in the town centre.
“For example, these apartments in Albert Road would be ideal for someone who works at the Houndshill Centre and wants to live nearby.
“Our rents will be comparable with existing commercial levels, but instead of a former holiday flat, we are offering a newly fitted out, spacious flat delivered to a high standard.”
The properties will also be managed by the Blackpool Housing Company so any problem tenants can be dealt with quickly, should the need arise.
Although it is hoped to attract workers, people claiming housing benefit will not be barred.
Mr Galvin said: “We can’t guarantee that a tenant won’t misbehave but we will provide a rapid response if there are issues, and we will want to protect our investment.
“We have a property in Reads Avenue which has been tenanted for 12 months and there have been no complaints.
“The housing company will be managing the properties, and we are also providing management services to other landlords.
“We are setting new standards and will be cascading that down.”
The work of the housing company also goes hand in hand with selective licensing, which has been introduced by the council in parts of the town.
This requires landlords to meet certain standards to secure a licence to operate.
However, some hoteliers in the area have voiced concerns the plans will do nothing to deter unruly tenants.
Adrian Smurthwaite of the Albany Hotel on Albert Road, said: “Blackpool town centre is not like Manchester which has a vibrant night town economy, with lots of restaurants.
“We see regular drug dealing and prostitution in this area, so why would anyone want to live here?
“We only live here because we run hotels.
“People with good jobs, who could afford these rents, only want to live on the outskirts of town, while the rest have low paid jobs and cannot afford the rents.
“I would rather have empty buildings to be honest, as that doesn’t cause us any problems.”