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Placemaking Makes Me Laugh, Says The Man Behind 24-Acre Manchester Mayfield Redevelopment

U+I's Richard Upton, Matthew Weiner and James Heather at the site of the company's new Manchester office at Mayfield.

Yes, that is what he said. U+I Deputy Chief Executive Richard Upton is one of the men behind the £900M Manchester Mayfield regeneration, one of the biggest placemaking experiments in the city. But "placemaking" is not one of Upton's favorite words.

Upton said that a detailed planning application for the scheme will be submitted by early summer 2019. There will be around 1.7M SF of new office floorspace, 344K SF of retail/leisure, 1,500 housing units and 13 acres of public realm including a 6.5-acre park.

“Placemaking as a word makes me laugh," Upton told Bisnow. "Check Google, and there are about a quarter of a million consultants to tell you what it is. But placemaking is just people colliding and making a community, and for that to work it has to be real. You can’t just make an authentic place. What you have to do is create a place where those collisions can happen, and it will happen if that place is somewhere people want to be.

“Placemaking isn’t about the buildings and the landscapes in just the same way that drinking isn’t about the glass. Of course you need the glass, and you need the buildings, but the real story is about content and belonging.”

Upton said that 18 months of conversation with local people will feed into the planning application late this spring. The first steps in what Upton does not like to call placemaking have already begun.

“We’ve demolished the southern side of the historic rail depot, revealing a 200K SF, 30-feet-high space. Anyone walking into it will say, wow, it’s almost an indoor park, indoors but also public,” Upton said.

U+I is preferred developer at the Mayfield site which is owned by LCR (formerly London & Continental Railways, successors to British Rail Property), Transport for Greater Manchester and Manchester City Council.