Manchester’s redeveloped Central Retail Park could deliver 1m sq ft of offices, including a 30-storey tower, and become “an exemplary net zero commercial district”, under a new masterplan for the area.
The 10.5-acre plot on the edge of Ancoats and New Islington was bought by Manchester City Council in 2017 from TH Real Estate, and initially was earmarked for development into 1,500 homes with Abu Dhabi United Group as part of the Manchester Life deal.
However, last June the council revealed office uses would instead dominate the site, with some apartments still to be delivered as part of a mixed-use scheme.
At the time, the total office size was set to run in excess of 500,000 sq ft. A newly-released masterplan, designed by Bennetts Associates, outlines plans for 10 buildings, including 1m sq ft of offices which could house 10,000 people.
The use of Central Retail Park for offices responds to a growing need for commercial space around the Northern Quarter and Ancoats. The masterplan identifies that technology, media and telecoms companies have been attracted to the historic area of the city due to “their raw and characterful stock of smaller buildings”.
“However the area is lacking in new-build stock to continue to attract these occupiers… Central Retail Park has the potential to meet this demand for large-scale, purpose-built, characterful commercial floor space.”
The plan “takes into account the need to accommodate a substantial pre-let”, with five blocks earmarked for pre-let in the masterplan.
One of the largest requirements in the Manchester market, Barclay’s 600,000 sq ft office hunt, has for a long time been tipped to locate within Mayfield near to Piccadilly Station. However, recent rumours have suggested Central Retail Park could also pique the bank’s interest as an alternative location.
Offices of around 200,000 sq ft are all in the pipeline at Ask Development’s First Street, Bruntwood SciTech’s Circle Square, and Mayfield, which could partly meet Barclay’s campus office needs.
The framework also shows plots for a hotel, and residential, which could also be converted into space for small businesses.
According to the masterplan, there is “potential for a building of significant height to form a ‘set piece’ with the Oxygen Tower at the junction of Old Mill and Great Ancoats Street “. The tower would reach 30 storeys, mirroring Property Alliance Group’s Oxygen Tower opposite which is set to reach 32 storeys.
The redevelopment of Central Retail Park would revive and extend Cotton Field Park, alongside the creation of new public realm known as Cotton Field Square, which “could form one of Manchester’s most significant public spaces”.
While the masterplan remains light on details of how a net zero development would be delivered, Central Retail Park would “play its part in realising a carbon neutral Manchester by 2038” and would be “held accountable” in meeting these commitments as the project moves forward.
Exterior Architecture, cost consultant Faithful+Gould and engineer Buro Happold are advising on the masterplan.