London’s first luxury retirement community offers retirees independent living alongside hotel-inspired amenities, all within sight of Battersea’s Albert Bridge. Lara Haddock of Battersea Place walks Jack Wooler around the development.
Just across the road from Battersea Park, within eyesight of Albert Bridge, the capital’s first luxury retirement community hosts 103 one, two and threebedroom luxury apartments and penthouses, as well as a wide range of onsite amenities and services, and 24-hour care.
Approaching from the outside, the exterior brickwork complements the red brick Victorian houses and mansion flats which characterise Battersea, while floorto- ceiling windows reflect the parkland opposite and facilitate long and interesting sight-lines for residents – the building orientated to maximise views outdoors and bring essential daylighting in.
When I first walk into the reception to meet Lara Haddock, head of sales at Battersea Place, I am immediately displayed one of the many advantages of retirement living. Attending the front desk, which if I didn’t know better could have been that of any upmarket hotel, I am just behind a resident who had to attend a funeral that afternoon. As sad as this is, the ease and speed at which this travel was accommodated is certainly impressive – they’re booking him a car immediately, and making sure he’s got his return journey sorted (though his family were on hand at that end.)
Soon after, Lara arrives to greet me, explaining that such an event is just one of many benefits of this style of retirement. “Battersea Place was built to be fully accessible in every sense,” she says as we head out the reception.
“The development is designed to fill the gap between independent and assisted living; the challenge was how to sensitively integrate a high-end London residence together with onsite amenities and a discreet, state-of-art care capability.”
Leading me through the reception and into the central hub of the development, Lara begins by giving me a tour of the building and its various amenities.
This hub bridges the lounge, library and meeting areas, and connects the two residential wings on either side.
“All communal facilities are on the ground floor,” says Lara, “enabling both easy accessibility and fostering relations between the residents.”
She continues: “When residents enter the building, they walk past the lounge which encourages them to stop and converse with friends and neighbours; the lounge also opens onto a courtyard garden, creating a social environment for every season.”
We take a moment here to look through the open glazing of the lounge through to the central courtyard – in which “every effort was made to landscape the area to create a sanctuary where residents can relax, and provide a focal point at the development’s core.”
Lara now leads me back to the corridor, and to the nearby bar and restaurant – which, as the reception, could be mistaken for that of any upmarket hotel’s – illuminated with green directional lighting that reduces any sense of harshness, and produces a certain ambience in the space.
To my side is an ‘a la carte’ menu, which at a quick glance featured, among many, the enviable options of roast guinea fowl or pan fried sea bass.
Continuing, complementary communal facilities are located close by here. The on-site cinema is one such impressive example I am led to, enabling residents to enjoy refreshments while participating in other activities such as enjoying movies or the opera, or perhaps sharing a game of snooker in the billiards room. The pool is also located close here on the ground floor, and, “unlike many indoor pools,” Lara tells me, “it is flooded with light from windows above and to the side.”
A gym, with specialist Helsinki University Research (HUR) equipment is also located here, just beside the pool.
Lastly, before she showms me one of the few unoccupied homes in the facility, we take the elevator down to the attached nursing home located on a lower floor, providing “reassurance of care (if required),” while domiciliary care is also available in the retirement apartments themselves.
The care home – The Albert Suites – is almost as deceptive as the retirement community.
While its function is necessarily more clinical than its counterpart, like the retirement home, the nursing home is bright and airy, offering both comfort and style – in its own restaurant for example, quality has not been lost for those in higher need.
One of the main benefits of the attached care home, says Lara, as separate as it is, is the future-proofing aspect for residents. Even without entering care, she tells me that in the retirement section, the services can grow with their needs and health, but when it comes to it, having a care home on site is a far smaller upheaval.
Lara even tells me about one couple who shared a flat upstairs that found a real benefit here; one partner had to enter care, but was able to do so just downstairs from their partner, with visitation as easy as pushing a button on the lift.
As we head back through these various amenities towards the show apartment, Lara tells me of the brand’s history, and how, drawing on 35-years’ experience of owning and operating international retirement communities, LifeCare Residences (LCR) founder Cliff Cook “recognised the need for high-quality retirement accommodation in London.”
The head of sales continues: “In Battersea he saw the ideal location to deliver LCR’s concept of providing a rich and fulfilling quality of life admit a thriving community.”
She explains that before Battersea Place took form, the site was previously occupied by Ralph West Hall, which was a single 10 storey building providing accommodation to students at the University of Surrey.
In 2007, LCR purchased the site on Albert Bridge Road, but it wasn’t without its barriers in its early days.
“We acquired the site with the principle of residential development having been established through earlier planning decisions,” says Lara.
“There was a huge amount of local opposition to the redevelopment of Ralph West Hall; however, at that time Wandsworth were very accommodating of our form of accommodation, recognising the benefits of providing residential properties alongside care to local people.”
With Wandsworth’s support, the team, including architect Powell Dobson, Tracy Leach of ICON Interiors, VINCI Construction for the build, and SLW, for project management, then achieved a C2 planning permission for the redevelopment of the site to provide the retirement community and its full on-site nursing care.
The sales director is however very clear in describing LCR’s leading role in the project: “We are in the position of both developer and long-term owner/operator of the project, and we took a very close monitoring role over everything. Vinci Construction had a design and build contract, and we also kept a close relationship with them throughout the project.”
She tells me that construction then started in 2013, the demolition of all existing structures being required before work began, and the project reached completion in 2016 – with builder Vinci selecting a concrete frame solution with post-tensioned floor slabs on a contiguous piled retaining wall and external steel balconies fixed to the slab to achieve the envisioned goal.
A HOME FOR LIFE
By this point we have reached the show apartment, which Lara leads me inside proudly.
Just like the rest of the building, the apartments themselves are similarly glamourous. It is easy to forget – with such amenities drawing so much attention – that Battersea Place is also a permanent home to many.
As I am guided around the show flat by Lara – the space enviable for those of multiple generations beneath its target audience – the head of sales says it has been intentionally put together in a multigenerational style, “but with the added design considerations necessary for retirees” – and this is clear; if it weren’t for the safety cord in the wetroom it would hard to separate it from any luxury inner-city flat.
According to Lara, the apartment’s interior design is also intended to “juxtapose contemporary design with classic elegance, and harness open plan living to create a fluid, versatile space,” along with the “elegant furnishings” that add to the sense of luxury.
As she puts it, the “apartments were discreetly adapted to cater to the retirement community demographic, without compromising on specification.”
There are of course many design considerations necessary when building for the elderly. Some of the less obvious, but important features that the head of sales shows me include raised height ovens and appliances, wide corridors and doorways, and a 24-hour call system.
Another benefit that Lara points out is the peace of mind for family members – when worried, they can simply call the concierge at any time of day, who will promptly send a member of staff to check on them.
She says that resident’s safety is of course “paramount” in all aspects of the building, which is apparent in its design, from perhaps smaller issues of mobility tackled by level thresholds created wherever possible (including into balconies and external areas generally), to more serious health issues which the onsite nursing home is well-equipped to deal with, offering long or short term nursing rehabilitation and convalesce where it’s needed.
“Each resident has a personal swipe card that gives them access to the building and to their apartment,” continues Lara. “All doors and windows have wireless detectors, so the building management is fully aware of what is happening around the site,” supplemented by a CCTV system with cameras at key points around the development.
NOT JUST LIVING, BUT THRIVING
Despite all this, says Lara: “Although independent living and wellbeing are key, sociability and friendship is at the forefront of the offering, with intelligently designed communal spaces to facilitate this.”
As a prime example, there is a member of staff at Battersea Place whose sole purpose at work is to provide entertainment for the residents, booking and creating events for them to keep their calendars full. These events range from trips out, to the use of the many in-house amenities on site.
Lara continues: “An evolving calendar of social activity is designed to reflect residents’ passions and interests, including local excursions to the many social attractions in the capital (enabled by the services of a minibus and carpool).
Friends and families are also welcome to enjoy the many benefits of Battersea Place, with a guest apartment available for their use.”
Residents might meet for an exercise session in the large on-site pool for example, with towels provided so they don’t need to bring one down with them; they might enjoy the crafts room together – which as everything at Battersea Place, can be used with family members to keep residents’ apartments clutter free); watch something in the cinema room, which now offers broadcasts of the opera, with drinks and snacks in the intermission at the bar); or meet up for drinks in the bar’s happy hour.
According to the head of sales, the interior and exterior designs are also key to tying this overall experience together: “While underpinned by a sense of luxury, the overarching aim was to create a welcoming, homely atmosphere without feeling too corporate. Inspiration was taken from the luxury hotel industry, yet comfort was at the forefront of that vision.
“The natural landscape of the park and the contemporary design of the building are reflected throughout the interiors, using natural motifs and materials. London’s status as an international destination is also present in the design, with iconic artwork of the city throughout (designed to appeal to the well-travelled, cosmopolitan residents of Battersea Place).”
THE BEST RETIREMENT HAS TO OFFER
Throughout the building, there are nothing but happy and contented faces – from residents to staff – with couples having a quiet drink, sipping a coffee, having their nails done, or quietly reading in the library.
Seeing out a window beside me I am also reminded of the building’s location – it is easy to forget that on top of all these amenities, the building offers an enviable location just across the road from Battersea Park, Chelsea being just moments away over the bridge, South Kensington five minutes away by car, and the extensive transport links that such a location offers – not including the private transport services that the facility itself offers – all at a fitting luxury cost, of course.
“As London’s first luxury retirement community,” says Lara as we head back through the reception, “Battersea Place is a pioneering development, providing a new lifestyle choice for the over-70s.”
She concludes: “Residents frequently comment that Battersea Place has ‘changed their life for the better’ and that ‘they wished they had moved sooner’ – indeed, their advocacy of Battersea Place is one of the key drivers of sales enquiries (with word of mouth outperforming any other channel). Families, too, comment on how wonderful the move has been for their loved ones (while also reassuring them that their needs are exceeded, enabling them to enjoy the best retirement has to offer).”