WORK has started to convert a former York convent, once home to the Poor Clare Colettines, into a student housing complex.

Construction has now started on the 6.3 acre site on Lawrence Street which will see the convent renovated and 14 new accommodation buildings constructed in the grounds. Builders from Wates Construction are now on site, and the developers behind the project have released new images of how the finished complex should look.

The St Joseph’s Convent buildings were originally designed by a local Roman Catholic architect and were built between 1870 and 1875. The latest incarnation will be known as the Vita Student Village and will have 649 beds, mainly for University of York students.

Mark Oakes, chief commercial officer of Select Property Group, said: "We’ve worked closely with the Diocese, planning officers and Historic England to ensure that the design and development of the site is sympathetic and in keeping with its long-standing heritage in York.

"A great deal of time and attention has been put into designing a home for students in York that retains the character and charm of the former convent, while offering superb facilities, communal areas and social spaces."

Nuns had occupied the grade II listed convent buildings for 140 years but the property was put up for sale two years ago when the eight remaining sisters could no longer manage the site.

The redeveloped site will keep the the old orchard, which yields two tonnes of fruit a year, and new buildings will be named after the pears, apples and plums it produces, and is scheduled for completion in August 2017.

The Vita Student Village joins a long list of land being developed for student accommodation in the area including the established Boulevard student development in Hull Road and the York St John University housing on Navigation Road.

Student Castle on Walmgate, Foss Studios on Lawrence Street and the old Reg Vardy garage site in Lawrence Street have also recently been developed for student housing.

York based developer S Harrison have recently have their plans approved to turn the former Lawrence Street Working Men’s Club into 115 bed student accommodation.