Commercial Estates Group is looking for Manchester businesses and residents to contribute thoughts on the development of its 20-36 High Street site in a consultation session this afternoon.
The project is highly likely to involve demolition of the existing 70,000 sq ft building. Although there are still office tenants present, they are dwindling in number and hard to replace, according to David Hodgson, regional head of strategic development at CEG.
Hodgson told Place North West: “There are a lot of constraints with the site. There’s a substation at ground level, and Transport for Greater Manchester have kit in the basement for the Metrolink line. There’s asbestos to deal with. We’ve tried re-letting as office and retail tenants have left, but the space just isn’t attractive to modern occupiers.”
CEG has appointed Feilden Clegg Bradley as its architect for the scheme, with Deloitte advising on planning. Stephen Levrant Heritage Architecture is also on the professional team.
At this stage, said Hodgson, nothing has been decided as to the height of the new building, or what it might include. He said: “We’re considering all uses. You can see down Market Street, so it has retail appeal, but it’s also leading into the Northern Quarter, so it has that appeal as well.”
In materials issued prior to today’s event, a ground floor atrium with shops and cafés running through to Birchin Lane was proposed. Hodgson said that the thinking is to offer entrances facing inwards, rather than onto the tramlines.
He said: “The atrium is an aspiration – we want to respect the historic aspect and streetscape, and provide linkages. We’ve looked at various early ideas on massing for the site, and what this won’t be is a single big block.”
Popular music venue The Ruby Lounge will have to move, a prospect with which it seems entirely happy. In a statement released on Twitter the venue said: “We have been consulted and offered an alternative site plus help with relocating, licensing etc.
“We have occupied that awfully ugly building for a very long time now and to be fair it does need transporting to another flatter dimension.”
Hodgson said that discussions with the traders at Manchester Markets’ Church Street operation are ongoing. He added: “We’ll be speaking to neighbours, tenants, senior council officials. This is about informing our ideas, and hopefully we can soon hold another event to show fuller plans.”
The session will run at the building between 3pm and 8pm on Wednesday 26 July.