The operator of the Manchester College is applying for government funding to progress the next phase of its development programme, which would involve the sale of the Shena Simon Campus off Sackville Street and construction of a new build facility on a neighbouring site.
At the same time, LTE Group is making headway on other disposals within its sprawling Manchester portfolio, including the sale of the Fielden Campus off Barlow Moor Road, for which the bidding deadline is the end of this month.
The 97,000 sq ft Shena Simon building on Chorlton Street houses the Manchester College’s sixth form facility that specialises in creative and digital media, arts and music courses.
However, the grade two-listed red brick structure is becoming inefficient for educational purposes and could be better used as housing or a hotel based on early-stage planning talks held with consultants, according to John Thornhill, chief executive of LTE.
The group wants to vacate and sell the property, he told Place North West. But it cannot do this until it has built a proposed extension to its £93m city centre digital and creative campus under construction on the adjacent Boddingtons Brewery site on Great Ducie Street.
LTE sold a portion of the Boddingtons site to Clarion Housing Group in June, and the housing association’s development arm Latimer plans to build 442 flats across two buildings including a 20-plus storey tower. Latimer’s 1.24-acre site, currently used as a surface car park, is part of a seven-acre plot owned by LTE and sandwiched between Shena Simon and the Boddingtons site, but deemed surplus to requirements.
Under LTE’s plans, an extension to the digital campus would be built on a half-acre slice of this plot to house the college’s Industry Excellence Academy for Business and Professional, which provides industry-standard facilities for courses ranging from finance to marketing.
Constructing this additional facility would require an investment of £45m, according to Thornhill. LTE plans to provide the majority of the cash but is looking to obtain the rest as a grant from Whitehall. Because the country is still emerging from Covid-related economic uncertainty, this is unlikely to happen until later in the year.
LTE therefore envisages the business campus and Shena Simon property sale forming the second phase of the Manchester College’s estate renewal programme and expects it to take another two years to get underway, subject to securing the requisite funds.
“Once these facilities are completed, will we then cease our provision from the Shena Simon campus and engage in the process of disposing of the site,” Thornhill said.
The £140m estate revamp began in 2017 as LTE sought to identify ways to update college facilities, reduce its carbon footprint, better align skills training to the needs of the job market, and ensure that its sizeable estate fits in with the city council’s evolving spatial strategy.
LTE is now in the process of consolidating 54 buildings across 19 locations in Manchester, to nine buildings across just five sites. It says it is on track to open a £25m redevelopment of its Openshaw Campus in East Manchester by September and complete the new build Great Ducie Street campus in time for the start of the 2022 academic year.
Main contractor Willmott Dixon has been delivering the city centre digital campus and internal fit-out is underway. Meanwhile at the Openshaw Campus, an 18,000 sq ft roof has been fitted on the scheme’s centrepiece – an indoor sports hall that houses a six-court multi-discipline sports hall with viewing gallery and media suite.
The sports component of the scheme will also feature an outdoor pitch, gym and sports laboratory for students of the college’s Centre of Excellence for Sport. In addition, the campus will have a health suite with hospital ward and infectious disease area for healthcare students; workshops for construction and engineering students; a mock nursery for Childhood Studies students, and a motor vehicle learning facility.
LTE is also making progress with the planned sale of its 6.5-acre Fielden Campus in West Didsbury. “We’ve had high interest in this asset,” Thornhill said. Bids are being accepted until the end of this month and LTE says the site has the potential to be redeveloped into up to 50 homes.
The company expects to start marketing the eight-acre Nicholls Campus in Ardwick for sale in about six months’ time, Thornhill added. The land off Hyde Road is considered suitable for housing and LTE is working with Manchester City Council to incorporate it into the council’s strategic regeneration framework for Ardwick Green.
Beyond that, a cluster of industrial buildings close to the Openshaw Campus will be brought to market at some point next year. LTE has already agreed to sell the 18-acre Northenden Campus, between Wythenshawe Park and Princess Parkway, to Miller Homes to develop 47 affordable homes, and six other asset sales have completed since 2017.
LTE envisages the college facilities within its overhauled estate serving around 35,000 youth and adult learners, 3,800 apprentices and 1,200 professional learners each year over a 25-year period.