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LONDON-Blackstone Group has unveiled plans for a euro 141.64-million ($180.51-million) student accommodation development near Kings Cross in London. The move is the first step in bid to overhaul university living across Britain and to capitalize on a huge growth market.

The first scheme in the roll-out program is a 16-story tower block which Blackstone is converting into 846 ensuite bedrooms with kitchenettes, 50 private apartments, 14 affordable apartments, parking space for 250 bicycles and retail units and commercial space. It will be ready next September.

The accommodation, which will cost euro 268 ($342) a week for a single room, includes some double rooms, bedsits tailor-made by a Zurich interior designer, free wireless Internet connections, 24-hour security guards, coffee shops, a cinema and a gym.

“On the whole, student living standards in the UK are awful,” says Stuart Grant, director of Blackstone’s retail group in London. “We have identified an opportunity to reinvent the student accommodation experience.”

Blackstone has created a company called Nido, which means “nest” in Spanish and Italian, that will manage the block’s day-to-day running, providing, for example, receptionists, cleaners and security.

The scheme, which represents Blackstone’s first venture into the student housing sector, will be replicated in university towns and cities as part of a multimillion-pound roll-out. A new building has already been bought in London’s Spittalfields and other sites are being considered in Paris, Germany, Spain, Italy and Japan.

According to the latest government figures, there are 120,000 students looking for accommodation in London, including the first years starting this week. Despite the demand, there are only 33,000 institutionally owned and operated student beds. Experts estimate the UK student housing sector to be worth euro 22.35 billion ($28.5 billion).

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