Back in December, we were slightly surprised to find out that some of London's newest student accommodation costs up to £300 per week. Following our comments, we were contacted by the American developer, Blackstone. They invited us to tour their new student skyscraper, Nido Spitalfields, to see for ourselves what £1,250 a month gets you.The tallest building in the Square Mile to open this year, Nido ("nest" in Spanish or Italian) is the second student block built by the company in the UK — Nido King's Cross opened in 2007, and another is planned in Notting Hill. The 105m-tall building will accommodate 1,204 residents in a number of configurations, ranging from single or double studio units up to six-bedroom "clusters". We're not talking the insipid showers and unsprung mattresses you probably recall from student digs days — as might be expected, the rooms are filled with modern, designer furniture that doesn't look like it will withstand the type of use that the 18-21 crowd will subject it to (or maybe that's just the crowd we hung around with when we were 18-21). The rooms and shared spaces are a little on the small side, but not unduly so — only the kitchen space in the twin studio felt genuinely cramped.From the top floor, there's a wonderful panorama of London. Looking west is an unrivalled view of the City and the West End beyond, while Spitalfields and the whole of east London is laid out on the other. The neighbouring skyscrapers feel so close that with a pair of opera specs students will be able to spy on board meetings at the Heron tower and the Pinnacle when they're built. It's a residential view matched only by that from the three Barbican towers. The student housing stretches up to the 31st floor: the two floors above that won't generally be for student use, as the developer is creating a 'Sky Lounge' for private functions and parties, which will be served by its own dedicated elevator from the ground floor.Having taken the tour, does £300 a week still seem extortionate? What the developers are offering is a solution for wealthy parents concerned about the safety of their offspring studying in London. Nido has full-time security, and employs "resident life coordinators" and fellow students who can troubleshoot any problems or issues the residents have. From wireless internet to laundry to dining, to regular community events, it provides everything they need; nobody really need leave their little perch atop the City (apart from to sleep through another seminar on campus, of course). It's a privilege largely afforded to international students: 90% of the occupants of Nido King's Cross are from outside Britain. In a city where only 20% of students are offered housing, it's a big concern: not necessarily one for the developer, but it's something to think about in the wider question over student debt.If you're the scion of a wealth foreign family, Nido Spitalfields will probably be a great place to live. If you're of more modest means, it might be a source of envy.Thanks to Gina McMorran at Blackstone, and the staff at Nido Spitalfields and Nido King's Cross, for arranging the visit.
11 January 2010