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General Projects Gets Specific With 350K SF Manchester Office Plan

The Pollard Street commercial campus

Jacob Loftus, founder and CEO of General Projects, dreamed up a company name that leaves absolutely everything vague.

But the 350K SF Manchester office development he is brewing with U.S. private equity house Angelo Gordon is nothing if not specific. Specifically, it is the answer to the city council’s post-COVID prayers.

As Manchester City Council reshapes its economic policy to cope with the pandemic, including a focus on small and growing indigenous businesses in the tech, media, digital and scientific sectors, Loftus and his team are offering to provide space for exactly that kind of company.

The application for workspace at Pollard Street in the city centre’s eastern Islington district is perfectly timed, arriving just as city council strategic director for growth Louise Wyman begins to put the plan into action.

The development could secure planning permission as early as next year. Detailed design will follow with a target start date for the project of late 2021.

The Pollard Street site

Everything about the £175M scheme plays to the growing sentiment that life post-coronavirus will be focused more heavily on neighbourhoods, and less on sprawling city conurbations.

“We are not pitching this as a conventional office development. It is not going to command premium rents, and it will go against the grain of recent evidence on £/SF,” General Projects Development Associate Ben Cross said. A discounted rent could see a ceiling of mid £20s/SF.

“This scheme is about less dense workspace, and it’s about small and medium-sized business, the micro enterprises that had started to move out of the city centre because they aren’t able to keep pace with rental growth.”

The largest floorplate is 6K SF, although this comes with the roomy ceiling-heights typical of old mill buildings.

“In a way this is the reinvention of the mills, which were always versatile, functional, sustainable workspaces. These will be economic rents so local businesses can find space,” Cross said.

Local funding is also important. “Angelo Gordon are co-investing, and beyond that we will look for debt funding, hopefully from the North West Evergreen Fund, who will see the social benefit in what we’re doing. Whatever happens, we’ll try to make sure the funding is local,” Cross said.