River Street Tower, Manchester, P.PNW
The development completed last year. Credit: Place North West.

Downing’s River Street Tower to change hands 

Dan Whelan

Investor Greystar is close to agreeing a deal to buy the 32-storey student accommodation scheme in Manchester as part of a wider portfolio acquisition valued at around £380m. 

Downing’s River Street Tower completed in 2020 and comprises 800 student beds. It was designed by SimpsonHaugh Architects and funded by Barclays, HSBC, NatWest. 

Other assets to be offloaded by Downing include blocks in London and Coventry, totalling almost 2,000 bed spaces. 

The portfolio was reported as being under offer in Allsop’s Q3 Market Update. 

Downing could use the cash to fund its pipeline of projects, including its £300m co-living cluster close to River Street Tower. 

The 2,224-bedroom scheme, which features a 45-storey tower, won final approval in March. 

Greystar declined to comment and Liverpool-based Downing was contacted for comment. 

As an investment, student accommodation is looking more appealing now than it did 12 months ago. 

An enforced period of home learning and uncertainty about how universities would operate going forward raised questions about the investment potential of student accommodation schemes. 

However, the challenges presented by the pandemic have done little to dampen the appetite for further education in Manchester among students themselves. 

According to a report to Manchester City Council’s economy scrutiny committee, the number of students that have enrolled at Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester is increasing. 

Some 73,299 students enrolled at Manchester’s two largest universities in 2018/19. This cohort increased to 73,906 in 2019/20.  

The universities have reported increases in 2020/2021 admissions and an increase in applications for 2022/2023 study, the report said. 

However, the number of foreign students arriving to study in the UK is expected to be around 50% below pre-pandemic levels, according to Allsop’s market report. 

Greystar’s acquisition follows other large student accommodation portfolio deals including Apollo Global Management’s acquisition of Crown Students’ Jewel Portfolio comprising 1,655 beds in Cardiff, Norwich and Portsmouth for £210m. 

In addition, Mapletree has acquired four PBSA blocks comprising 917 beds from Vita in Nottingham, Leeds, Bristol and Exeter for £165m. 

Q3 is a popular time for new PBSA opportunities to enter the market, according to Allsop. 

“This is because the booking cycle has closed, thus providing buyers and sellers a clear income picture, removing unnecessary ambiguity.” 

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