Manchester Fort to diversify ‘in face of vulnerable retail market’

The owner of the 325,000 sq ft retail park on Manchester’s Cheetham Hill Road is looking to redevelop parts of the site, removing the existing B&Q and Halfords units to bring forward a cinema and leisure uses.

Manchester Fort opened in 2004 and is made up of 36 units. The park initially focused on bulky goods, however over the years occupiers have shifted to include retailers such as Next, H&M, Boots, M&S Food, and TK Maxx.

Investment manager Nuveen has submitted a strategic regeneration framework to Manchester City Council, outlining plans for the long-term future of the park.

According to the SRF, drafted by Turley on behalf of Nuveen, although Manchester Fort is a successful location, “a vulnerable retail market” has created “a number of threats”, and in order to “enhance its resilience to an increasingly challenging market, more needs to be done to ensure the longevity of the park”.

The proposals would see the redevelopment of the northern section of the park, incorporating further retail and leisure uses, improved public realm including a “gathering space”, and a new gateway into the site.

Manchester Fort

Indicative drawing shows proposed hotel and public realm

The overall footprint of the park is not expected to be expanded, however the existing B&Q and Halfords units have been outlined for redevelopment, as they are viewed as “remnants of the original bulky goods offer” of the park.

Alongside the creation of more flexible retail units, the overhaul would see the inclusion of an anchor cinema, a 20,000 sq ft foodstore, food and drinks outlets, and a hotel. The strategy is looking to increase dwell time on the site from the current daytime focus, into the evening.

Improvement works would look to take advantage of the potential increase in residents in North Manchester, due to the 15,000-home Northern Gateway development being brought forward by the council and Far East Consortium.

However, work at Manchester Fort is not expected to be imminent, as the redevelopment of B&Q and Halfords is dependent on the retailers moving out of their units, and there remains several years left to run on their leases.

The regeneration framework is set to be considered by Manchester City Council’s executive committee tomorrow, and then will go out to six weeks of public consultation.

Turley is advising, alongside The Harris Partnership.

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