Ancoats' 1M SF Office Plan: Page Not Found?
Competition to develop in the emerging east-Manchester new-build office market is expected to dominate the next round of office market construction activity. The busy four-lane highway provides the market's spine. Today, developers are jostling for position.
One scheme is being watched with particular interest: The former Central Retail Park, Ancoats. Manchester City Council's website was displaying “page not found” signs to visitors who clicked through to make comments on the council’s plans for 1M SF of new office space on the 10.5-acre former retail park, Ancoats, but the scale of the potential scheme means it is one that will have a significant impact on the Manchester market.
But the project faces obstacles. The threat of legal action by environmental campaigners hovers over the site. The Trees Not Cars campaign group did not respond to Bisnow’s request for an update on its plans to challenge the scheme in court.
The site also faces some technical problems. Land levels on the site vary by up to five metres, “which will need to be mediated in order to create a permeable site” the council noted in a report on the scheme. This will inevitably add to development costs.
There is also a forgotten but culverted brook to contend with. Shooters Brook’s exact depth is not known but is estimated to be 12 to 15 meters down. “A survey will be required to determine accurate depth, location and condition,” the council report dryly noted of the brook that drains into the river Medlock.
These issues will be of interest to future developers. “In the future, we may appoint a development partner to help us deliver the scheme, and there will be more consultation on detailed proposals once they are developed,” the city council website said.
Market observers hope that the phasing of the various eastern sector office plans, and differences of emphasis in each location, will mean a smooth acceleration of the area's office market.
"The evidence of the last three-five years in Manchester is that city fringe campus office schemes do well," OBI Director Richard Lace told Bisnow. "New Bailey, First Street and others have shown the trend. Central Retail Park and Mayfield could both play to that in different ways, although it will all depend on the timing. Both can be successful."
The council’s original plan was for housing. This was replaced in 2019 with 500K SF of offices. In February 2020 this was doubled to 1M SF of offices including a 30-storey skyscraper described in the draft strategic regeneration framework as “a ‘set piece’, with the Oxygen Tower at the junction of Old Mill and Great Ancoats streets.
The council said the development will “play its part in realising a carbon neutral Manchester by 2038, and addressing the twin crises of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss”, although campaigners want to test this in court.
The council’s draft plan said that the site could provide larger occupiers to add to the tech/media and telecoms ecosystem already growing in Ancoats and the Northern Quarter.
“The Central Retail Park has the potential to meet this demand for large scale, purpose-built, characterful commercial floor space,” the document said.
Consultation on the Central Retail Park strategy ends on 24 September by which time U+I’s Mayfield will be hoping to demonstrate progress on its 1.6M SF plans in the immediate aftermath of the award of £23M government support for public realm. Developers behind the 8.7M SF raft of initiatives planned for Portugal Street East will also want to have their input.