Chief executive David Campbell said Alumno’s minimalist conversion of one of the giant blocks would create an ‘edgy’ product that would appeal to students despite competition in the city.
When complete in summer 2020, Sheffield will have purpose-built flats for 48 per cent of students.
And while the Kier Group is set to shed jobs and sell subsidiaries to save £55m, its regional construction business hired by Alumno was still making money, and he was “optimistic it would be fine.” Some 150 people, the majority with Kier, are working on site.
Meanwhile, student numbers were forecast to go up slightly after Brexit.
Alumno held a groundbreaking ceremony at Park Hill last week, although people have been working there since February.
Al;umno bought the Southern Block from Sheffield City Council and is spending £27m on the conversion. The company is using its own money and funding from NatWest, Mr Campbell said.
He added: “It would be wrong to say we weren’t concerned about Kier although we have worked with them over many years. They advised us about what was happening and it looks like they’re at the bottom of the problem.
“The regional construction business is what we deal with. It is a key area that makes money and I’m optimistic it will be fine.”
Alumno is taking the building back to the concrete which makes it “unique and special.”
It will be more subtle than Urban Splash’s colourful treatment of the block it has redeveloped, he added.
The company has had talks with both universities and plans to open a marketing unit in the former Maplin shop on Pinstone Street to drive sales.
“Obviously we go into this with our eyes open. When complete, there will be purpose-built provision for 48 per cent of Sheffield students, but in some cities it’s over 50.
“We’re expecting an increase of up to two-and-a-half per cent of student numbers from 2020 onwards, which could send provision down to 42 per cent very quickly.”
Alumno is part-owned by housing association Places For People and takes a 25-year view.
“I don’t see Brexit affecting student numbers, in fact they could increase slightly. We feel confident, Alumno has a robust business model and a good track record.”
Park Hill Flats are Grade II listed.