Rylands AM Alpha p.BancroftButler

Plans for the overhaul were approved almost two years ago. Credit: via Real Estate Marketing Media

Contractor appointed as Debenhams office conversion advances

AM Alpha has hired Russell WBHO to convert the historic Rylands building in Manchester into 300,000 sq ft of workspace, having opted not to sell the Market Street property. 

The German investor bought the former Debenhams department store for £87m in 2017 and won planning approval to redevelop it in January 2021. 

AM Alpha then put the grade two-listed property up for sale but no buyer emerged, prompting the investor to pull the trigger on the approved scheme. 

Russell WBHO has been appointed to deliver the redevelopment project as approved, and early-stage remediation of the building has begun. 

Designed by Jeffrey Bell Architects, the scheme will see the property completely refurbished. The upper floors will be converted into workspace, while the ground floor will comprise a shopping arcade. 

A four-storey rooftop extension will provide an additional 40,000 sq ft of offices. 

“We are delighted to be working with AM alpha to revitalise the historic Rylands building and position it in the market as a highly sustainable building,” said Gareth Russell, founder and managing director of Russell WBHO. 

“With our extensive experience in historic preservation and sustainable building, we will make AM Alpha’s vision a reality.” 

The main phase of work is scheduled to begin in the new year and completion is expected in early 2025. 

The building is designed to achieve net zero carbon status, targeting Breeam ‘excellent’ or Nabers 5* accreditation. 

“Working with listed buildings is always a great privilege,” said Stephan Schmid, senior vice president at AM Alpha. 

“We are proud to be able to give this historic Manchester landmark a new future and restore Rylands to its former glory in a very sustainable way. In this way, we are also helping to achieve Greater Manchester’s 2038 carbon neutrality target.” 

OBI and Barker Proudlove have been appointed as letting agents. 

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The council have left this entire area to rot. Market St and the connections through to the Northern Quarter (including the comedically narrow pavements on Tib Street) are all a disgrace. Hopefully this scheme is the start of a new image for this area

By Anonymous

Great news to see the work commence

By Tomo

Fantastic news!! Now lets all keep our fingers crossed that the Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios design for 20-36 High Street comes through too!

By Tom

A four-storey extension? Really?! So much for the listing.

By Anonymous

Interesting take from anonymous……don’t think the council made Debenhams do under. Loads of sites have been developed around here and others have permissions that haven’t been built. What is the council expected to do???

By Confused

Splendid. Now get that other building approved and started around the corner opposite the Arndale and this whole st might start looking a little less sorry.

By Anonymous

Confused – the public realm around Market St and High Street is just really messy, the council doesn’t seem to care about pedestrian flow – the street furniture is cluttered, the paving is low quality, and Tib St is blocked off by a tacky food van. Once you get onto Tib St, you’ll find low quality, narrow pavements with cars flying down it. Tib St has the potential to be so much greater – pedestrianised, trees, better lighting. I fear the Piccadilly councillors just don’t have the vision to make the area the best it can be.

I’d also like to see the council doing more to encourage the owners of the Arndale to do more to update the centre – and come up with a long term plan for its redevelopment.

By Anonymous

Ah I see , it’s a few things but mostly get rid of cars. That would really the Arndale., Mind you if we got rid of the Arndale count me in .

By Anonymous

The Arndale really needs redevelopment. I’d go for a streets based model, some of these being canopied arcades.

Perhaps a designer like Thomas Heatherwick could be involved? Something distinctive, verdant and unique.


The arndale really badly needs a re development for people to actually enjoy shopping there. An even bigger development needs to be set out on market street. There is something that is missing and so dated and boring on that street.

By Anonymous

The Arndale is indeed incredibly grim

By Anonymous

@confused – Maybe sort out the public realm and pavements, whilst getting rid of half of the pointless street clutter they have installed. Manchester looks great from the air but its an utter disgrace in parts when you are on the ground. We cant claim to be a “world class” city until these basics are addressed.

By Bob

Bob and anonymous. Didn’t realise this was about bagging the City Council and their magic money tree.. this is an overwhelming good news storey about repurposing a vacant listed building. Come on that has to be worth celebrating and will address many of the public realm issues anyway. Where is Julie haymaker when you need her!!!!!

By Confused

    Spotted your bat signal, @Confused, and a very good point. Let’s keep the discussion on this specific project going forward. I’ll be keeping a closer eye on the thread from now on. – Julia

    By Julia Hatmaker

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