Abu Dhabi joint venture moves for Central Retail Park

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Manchester City Council, in partnership with Abu Dhabi United Group, is set to acquire the 10-acre Central Retail Park from TH Real Estate, paving the way for a new wave of residential development under the Manchester Life mantle.

Central Retail Park is on Great Ancoats Street, a prime location at the edge of the Northern Quarter, near to New Islington. It has operated as a retail destination since the 1980s, but has suffered from a drop in footfall in recent years.

Due to its strategic location, Manchester City Council has been eying the site as suitable for residential development for a number of years.

Now, in a report to its executive committee on Wednesday 13 September, the council has asked for permission to buy the park from TH Real Estate. It would then put in place a new development framework and commercial plan, in partnership with Abu Dhabi United Group, delivering homes and mixed uses.

The council and Abu Dhabi are already in a longstanding joint venture, Manchester Life, bringing forward a series of residential developments as part of the regeneration of Ancoats and New Islington. Abu Dhabi is also the owner of Manchester City FC.

TH Real Estate was granted planning permission in 2013 for a £40m scheme which included a 90,000 sq ft supermarket, cinema and smaller retail units with undercroft parking. Work on the project never began.

Then in 2016, TH proposed a refurbished offer “to bring the site up to modern standards”, and release half of the site for residential development and other uses, although no further action was taken.

According to the report, the park “has seen a notable decline in recent years. This decline has been made all the more visible by the ongoing regeneration of this part of the city.”

While there was no detail on purchase price, or the number of units proposed on the site, previously the park has been valued at around £25m, and its size has been estimated to potentially support up to 1,500 homes if built in high density.

The report concludes that “the acquisition of the Central Retail Park site will help support and influence the continued regeneration of Ancoats and New Islington into a thriving mixed-use neighbourhood that offers a range of good quality homes in a variety of types and tenures along with creating opportunities for new commercial development and corresponding jobs in the area.”

The council owns the freehold of the site, and TH will surrender the leasehold.

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10 Acres!! Wowza.

By .

Great news. A key missing part to edge near completing the jigsaw for the northside of the city.

By MancLad

This is great news – for too long have TH Real Estate allowed the area to look run down! The only good thing TH Real Estate have done in recent years was to put railings up down the side of the abandoned Argos store to stop the homeless shooting-up there.

By Jim

Agree great news – let’s hope the severance caused by Great Ancoats Streer and be reduced and it become less of an urban motorway linking the expanding city centre back together.

By MetropolisMark

This is why MCC run rings around others… proper strategic thinking and in the process removing an eyesore

By Anonymous

Interesting that MCC already own the freehold meaning they were always in prime position to acquire the leasehold if it came onto the market.

It also suggests they had some influence on site clearance and the form of retail park development that came after. They must’ve been desperate for any investment at that time, to help such an awful scheme into existence.

Central retail park has served its purpose now so it’s great to see it being redeveloped. This could be genuinely transformational for the area.

By A planner

What mandate do MCC have to get involved in private sector development. I think SHB success has given the current team a sense of oversight that doesn’t exist. Also what does their existing JV extend into this site without any form of tendering of JV? Are the local dev co’s still scared to rock the boat???

By Worrying

So, TH wanted to market but MCC roles them they couldn’t as they hold the freehold. It’s only a matter of time befor someone properly challenges MCC practices!

By Wow

Thank god.

Please create a place of beauty and somewhere that creates new homes, jobs and amenities for this part of the city centre.

By Manc lover

Good riddance to this eyesore.Retail parks in ambitious city centres are to be avoided.That place looks like it should be on a ring road outside Luton.Shame they don’t extend Cottonfields to the road and create a city centre park with canals. Anything is better than what is there now though.

By Elephant

Abu Dhabi – let’s hope it’s a top class development.

By luke

Don’t miss the opportunity for some greenery, this sight is prime for a decent park.

By Loganberry

This is a great opportunity to do something exciting on site. Please don’t mess this one up

By Tom

@worrying What “mandate” do MCC have? How about shaping the market to maximise public good rather than private profit. Would it have been better to let it fall into the hands of a land banker? Or a low quality developer?

By A planner

Fingers crossed they build high along the main road and open up the middle to an expanded park with a square.

By Optimistic

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