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Will Lewis – director of OBI Property – on Manchester’s next new buildings.

Working in property can be a good conversation starter. It’s always nice to be able to help people you meet by filling them in a bit when they ask about changes taking place around them, for example; “what’s happening with that building?” and so on. Many of the clients we work with are responsible to some extent for changing Manchester’s physical fabric and we’re here, really, to act as a bridge and to tell the wider business world what it all means for them.

Be sure of this – over the next two or three years the city centre will look very different to how it does today. The economic downturn, as you’ll have noticed, led to the mothballing of several large development projects in all cities, and although the market here ticked along, it has warmed up over the last nine months to the extent that surplus space is now disappearing pretty rapidly. Don’t worry though as there’s a whole raft of new buildings coming along to fill the gaps, and what’s more… some of them are pretty exciting too.

At Spinningfields, The Cotton Building, which was designed by Cartwright Pickard, is fully funded and works have already started, bringing with it the opportunity to shape space in a way most occupiers won’t have experienced before – all bets are off. Eight upper floors with a bespoke approach, 160,000 sq ft in total including 30,000 sq ft of amenity and collaboration space featuring a bike park and climbing wall. The occupier will pick the look and feel of their space, not the developer. Times are changing and occupiers are re-appraising their approach to the workplace!

Close by, Quay House will in time be replaced by No 1 Spinningfields, while over the road there’s all manner of things going on at Old Granada Studios – events, concerts, food, workspace. The longer term plans for this site are also extremely exciting.
Argent’s One St Peter’s Square is taking shape nicely now. It is a major part of the reinvention of St Peter’s Square and will be somewhere to dwell and an asset for the city rather than a hodgepodge of public transport. Two more new buildings are in the works there too. Not too far away, First Street has had a very successful year, with big office occupiers signing up at the Number One building and ‘design and build’ opportunities being touted.

One key trend is the move towards the River Irwell. Indeed, two of “Manchester’s” next wave of buildings are on the Salford side of the river. Muse / English Cities Fund has won consent this year for an eight-storey office building, One New Bailey, to replace Ralli Courts, right across the river from Spinningfields (there’s a Premier Inn closing in on completion on the site too, and a car park on the way).

At Greengate, where Manchester and Salford meet close to Manchester Cathedral, Ask and Tristan Capital are pressing ahead with 101 Embankment; a scheme that will add real commercial impetus to a part of town that has seen pockets of really smart work – the new Chethams School of Music building for one – but has yet to gain momentum.

The winner, we think, is the business occupier – as the city centre expands, the range of options does so too. And far from being “fringe,” these locations will offer great connections – New Bailey is two minutes’ walk from Spinnningfields’ shops and restaurants, whilst Embankment is a short stroll from Harvey Nics and the other high-end retailers on New Cathedral Street. When Victoria Station’s redevelopment is complete, this could look a very smart spot.

You won’t wake up tomorrow and suddenly find unexplained new office towers looming over you – these things take time and it will be 2016 before this wave of properties hits the market. But you’ll notice the brightly coloured hoardings, then the cranes and the hi-viz clad hordes.

Building is back in town. Bring it on, we say.


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