Fuelling James’s vision for change
Posted on 10th August 2018 at 10:53
It’s an irony, really, that he lives just a stone’s throw from one of Hull’s greatest ever residents, late poet Phillip Larkin.
Because property developer James Ledger is a man on a mission to leave a positive legacy for the city, just like the man who used to live a few doors down, overlooking Pearson Park.
James’s goal doesn’t involve writing, but it’s just as creative – he wants to re-draw the local landscape and treat some of its most beautiful landmarks to some much-needed tender loving care.
He’s the force behind iconic renovations including the 19th Century Winding House on Victoria Dock; the former Charterhouse School in Wincolmlee and the former James Reckitt Library on Holderness Road. His latest project involves returning of the Endsleigh Centre former nunnery, off Beverley Road, to its former glory, and then some.
Over the past six years, James has turned each building into luxury apartments which he lets out as serviced accommodation through his Hull Serviced Accomodation company, to the growing number of people visiting Hull for business or pleasure, who want something more than a simple hotel room to stay in.
He’s daunted by nothing, sees beauty where others fail to note it and driven by a particular passion for restoration. Many of the sites he takes on have been empty or derelict for some time.
And all of this since returning to his home city of Hull from a stint renovating the historic ‘hutongs’ in Chinese capital Beijing.
Helping miracles to happen
Peacock Finance will help anyone with the whisper of potential and the determination to succeed, but James is a very special case, where I am extremely proud to have been able to help provide the funding to turn his considerable vision into reality.
“Darren sent me a speculative letter one day in 2014, about the old Coach House I was about to renovate in Pearson Park – my first project in Hull,” said James.
“He asked if I needed finance for the project, and if there was anything he could do to help.
“It was a ‘round robin’ mailing and the kind of thing I usually throw away but there was something about it that made me pick up the phone and give him a buzz.
“We met for a coffee and Darren came down to see the project. I had some finance in place at that point but he continued sending me ideas that were workable and interesting, and it really took off from there.”
“We’ve become good friends in addition to our business relationship and Darren secures me the deals I need to keep the business moving forward. His knowledge and connections have been a significant factor in me achieving success with them.
“Together, we work out exactly what I need and he goes out and gets it in one form or another. My financial background doesn’t do any harm either and together we make a great team. And of course, he’s a really nice guy, which also helps.”
Endsleigh Centre will be a sight to behold
“The project is really motoring now,” said James.
“Its 43 ensuite bedrooms are being refurbished as I speak and I’m hoping we’ll have them ready by September.
“We’re also turning our attention to the downstairs communal space, which is huge and fabulous, with a large kitchen and dining area, cinema, gaming room and conservatories.”
From October, James will also be turning the former chapel and theatre area into 18 more one-bedroom flats.
After that, he’ll be putting up four blocks of 16 two-bedroom, two-bathroom, newbuild flats in the Endsleigh Centre’s four acres of grounds, preserving much of the beautiful, mature gardens.
The exterior of the imposing historic building, and its beautiful stained glass windows, will remain unchanged. As will the orchard, memorial garden and maze.
Contributing to the vibrancy of Hull
According to James, demand for his high-quality accommodation, which aims to provide visitors with more of a home-from-home, is strong.
“The rooms are proving very popular with everyone from corporate visitors to apprentices and contractors,” he said.
“We aim to provide comfortable, spacious rooms with a high quality of finish which are also priced for value.
“Hull’s City of Culture status and the ongoing regeneration programme are definitely increasing the amount of traffic to the city. Our rooms enable them to spread out a bit, watch a 60-inch TV and make themselves something to eat, increasing the comfort of their stay especially if they’re here for a bit longer.”
James added: “I tend to look for buildings that have been overlooked, that are maybe available a bit cheaper, and then try to buy them at the right price and think what I can do with them that preserves their character while making them viable commercially.
“What excites me is being able to constantly aim for something better or bigger – things that make people step back and think ‘wow, I didn’t think it was possible to do that with this’.
“It makes me really proud when tenants like the Siemens workers visiting the plant in Hull, turn round and tell me mine is the greatest accommodation they’ve ever stayed in.”
James is also contributing to the economic vibrancy of the city, with the trusted team of skilled tradesmen that follow him from project to project.
Everything leading to this point
James left Hull when he was 18 to study a European business degree that involved spending two years in London and two in France. He managed to net himself a job as a derivatives trader for US investment bank Salomon Brothers. After six years of this and two in hedge funds, he hit 30 and decided he’d ‘had enough’. So, he headed out to China to help the Government there re-develop its iconic hutongs, ancient alleyways in the heart of the city – what else? After eight years doing that, he returned to Hull in 2012 and turned his attention to using that cumulative experience to transform buildings here.
“I started off by re-developing a building overlooking Pearson Park into 10 flats – one of which my family now live in – and it’s really just ballooned from there,” he added.
James’s up-and-coming projects include a patch of land on Trippet Street, in the city centre, on which he plans to build a block of 67 flats – and the planning process for that development is due to kick off soon.
“I’m going to build Hull’s most iconic building in 100 years on the car park down there where the Register Office used to be,” he added. “It will be seriously cool.”
And he’s got designs on finding his biggest project yet.
“I want to get into a really large, mixed use, commercial project,” he said. “Beyond that, he’s revealing nothing, though it’s clear he has something really significant up his sleeve.”
His overarching ambition? A knighthood. He means it, and it’s easy to believe he has a good chance of getting it.
“Money is often seen as the root of all evil but I believe it can also be a great force for good, and my own aim is to be commercially successful and use some of the proceeds from that to create a genuine legacy.
“My motto is ‘give it some welly! After all, I have to get that knighthood somehow! I’m motivated by making a difference and I’d see a knighthood as a fitting sum total of my career and life.
“I want my business to make money but my family and I are really just simple people. We already have more than we could ever need because we don’t need much.
“I like creating things. I probably should be an artist but I’m doing it with buildings instead.”
In fact, his four-year-old daughter Florence is one of his key motivators.
“I’ve always been motivated and ambitious but she makes me think about things differently and consider what I might leave behind,” added James.
“I want my kids to grow up in the best environment and it annoys me that we have all these beautiful buildings in Hull going to wrack and ruin. It would be no good to let our children grow up surrounded by run-down buildings. They deserve something better.”
If you’re inspired by what you’ve read and would like to talk to James about a potential project, you can contact him via his Hull Serviced Apartments business on 0800 888 6115. Or, if you’d like to stay in one of his beautiful properties, visit hullservicedapartments.co.uk.
Or, if you are a property developer and would like some advice on securing funding to turn your dreams into reality, contact Peacock Finance.
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