Case Study: Arena House Student Accommodation

Arena House, located on Duke Street in Liverpool, UK, was a student accommodation building with 54 beds. It was owned by a company limited by guarantee, with each member of the company having a single room as an investment. The building was popular among students, particularly language school students and university students. However, the limited amenities, such as communal bathrooms, became problematic when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK. The risk of virus transmission made the building unsuitable for students who may need to isolate during new strains or lockdowns.

The pandemic presented significant challenges for Arena House. The layout of the building with communal bathrooms was no longer suitable due to the fear of COVID-19 transmission. Additionally, the company’s structure made it difficult to secure financing for refurbishment or redevelopment. The property was registered as 54 individual leaseholds, making it impossible to use as collateral for a loan. To ensure the survival of the building, a complete restructure was necessary.

VOYA stepped in to help restructure Arena House and provided financial support throughout the pandemic to ensure its maintenance and security. A new company limited by shares was created, and leaseholders were given shares in the new company in exchange for surrendering their leaseholds. VOYA also received a shareholding. This restructuring involved a significant financial investment from VOYA, covering all expenses from 2020 to 2023, including legal and architectural costs for a new scheme to be designed and developed. Clean title was established for the building, enabling the arrangement of financing and restructuring loans and the previous leaseholds were now considered valuable shareholdings. With this new structure in place, VOYA submitted a planning application to transform the building into 12 serviced apartments with a basement bar and restaurant. This innovative concept in the hospitality sector would allow Arena House to be redeveloped and rebranded, offering a contemporary and ergonomic hospitality experience.

Once planning permission is granted, Arena House will be transformed into 82 Duke Street, seamlessly integrating into VOYA’s expanding hospitality business. The exclusive concept of 82 Duke Street will be marketed to business and corporate travelers during the week, while attracting weekend guests visiting the city for leisure. The bar and restaurant will be integrated with guest check-in areas, enhancing the overall guest experience. These facilities will also be open to the general public, creating additional revenue streams. The restructuring of Arena House enables VOYA to create a viable business from a previously unsuccessful student model and provide shareholders with a return on their investment. VOYA’s legal team at Ai Law and their expertise in restructuring, played a crucial role in overcoming significant challenges.