A former Victorian watch factory, has undergone a £11m transformation to become an innovative extra care scheme, which is proving so popular there’s now an 18-month waiting list to join, after over 700 people applied for apartments.
The Watchfactory, based in Prescot, is now owned and managed by Knowsley Housing Trust, a non-for-profit housing association which provides around 14,000 homes to 27,000 customers in Knowsley. The scheme, which received £3m-worth of funding from Homes England, now houses 70 residents, mostly over-55 and there are a variety of one and two-bedroom apartments and 16 custom built bungalows, available for affordable rent and shared ownership sale. All properties for sale were sold off-plan.
This state-of-the-art extra care facility offers a holistic approach, which includes 24-hour emergency assistance, an on-site care team, a communal lounge area, an on-site bistro serving a healthy and nutritious menu, a hair salon and a range of group activities such as exercise classes, outings and coffee mornings.
The Grade II listed, former watch factory is steeped in history. It was originally built in 1889 for the Lancashire Watch Company and was the largest factory of its kind in the UK. The watch company went out of business in 1910 and the factory became a makeshift barracks in 1915, accommodating hundreds of local soldiers. Subsequently, it has fallen into disrepair and remained empty for decades before Knowsley Housing Trust started work on site, in February 2015.
Katie Lenden, project manager - new build development and regeneration at Knowsley Housing Trust, said: “Demand for The Watchfactory has been beyond expectation. We knew it would be popular because of its uniquely architectural design and the blend of old and new.
"We worked with design of the original factory and created two new wings to extend the scheme. The original features, which include beams, columns, brick work and doors were replicated in the new extension and we used original materials, which were approved by the heritage planning officer.”
Joyce Oliver, one of the first residents to move into the Watchfactory in June, said: "I love living here, it’s better than the Hilton! The building is alive with history and the accommodation is so comfortable and modern.
“I spotted the development taking shape and knew I wanted to move into a scheme with character. My home was getting too much for me and I felt a bit isolated, I fancied moving somewhere more sociable. Today for example, we’ve got Christmas charity banjo players coming in to entertain us. Everything is on-site here - there’s a hairdresser, a bistro, a hobby room and a lovely communal garden.
“The scheme is integrated into Prescot and there are a number of great local shops on your door step. It’s very well connected and I can hop on a bus to anywhere in the North West.”
The project is part of wider regeneration in Prescot and complements the town centre heritage initiative. Knowsley Council is reviving the high street and is a major partner in supporting a new playhouse, Shakespeare North, the International College, focusing upon Shakespearean performance practice and the Shakespeare North Rail Interchange Prescot scheme, which will make Prescot more connected for residents.