Central Retail Park Indicative Image 1
The former plan for the retail park is to be overhauled

Manchester’s Central Retail Park switches to offices

Charlie Schouten

The city council is planning to bring forward 500,000 sq ft of offices on the site in Ancoats, moving its focus away from residential development.

Manchester bought the site on the edge of the Northern Quarter and near New Islington in late 2017. It had operated as a retail destination since the 1980s and was previously owned by THT Real Estate.

Since buying the site, the council had earmarked it for a high-density residential scheme working in partnership with Abu Dhabi United Group, with Central Retail Park expected to support up to 1,500 homes.

However, in an updated framework for the Eastlands area, the council is now setting aside the site for offices, particularly targeted at the telecommunications, media, and technology [TMT] sector.

The framework, prepared by planner Deloitte, said: “The adjacency of the Northern Quarter, which is also popular with parts of this sector, but has limited space to accommodate such occupiers, is a key benefit. These new types of office spaces encourage agile and collaborative working, creating spaces that aim to contribute to the wellbeing of the workforce.

“Existing stock tends to be ‘characterful’ because it is old and raw with limited facilities – the former Central Retail Park presents the best opportunity to work up a model which attracts this sector into new purpose-built spaces close to the workforce talent it needs. It is anticipated that in excess of 500,000 sq. ft. of this type of space could be accommodated on this site, and initial market advice supports this assessment.”

Development is likely to face the Ashton Canal and Cotton Field Park, facing the opposite direction from the former retail park, which backed onto the park. The council has identified opportunities for public space to complement the existing park, marina, and canals, while cycling and walking routes are to be prioritised.

Residential is not being abandoned entirely at the site; while offices will be the priority, it will still be seen as a mixed-use opportunity, with housing, leisure, and retail to be part of the scheme.

The redevelopment of the retail park falls within a wider masterplan for the Eastlands area, covering the area from Great Ancoats Street up to and beyond the Etihad campus.

Other developments include the potential for a 20,000-plus capacity indoor arena at the Etihad campus. The report states that “international investors and operators see Manchester as one of the few cities in Europe with the ability to successfully host more than one large arena”.

The city is continuing to work with Manchester Metropolitan University and other partners to develop the Manchester Institute for Sport, a higher education institution that would be the main element of a sports-tech cluster the council hopes to see flourish in the area. Up to 1,000 student bed spaces could be developed close to the Institute.

MXM, a development of up to 200,000 sq ft of flexible workspace being advanced by General Projects in the Pollard Street area, is also being brought forward.

Your Comments

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As long as they don’t let Manchester Life get anywhere near the proposed residential blocks. Their schemes in and around New Islington are pretty dire and they appear not to understand (or wish to invest in) proper place making.

By Unimpressed

Sensible proposal.

By Steve

@Unimpressed the site is a JV with Mcr Life and the council.

By sherbert_lemon


By Anonymous

Exciting times

By York Street

Basic sketch looks alright.

Open it up more.

By Douche

Think there may be a typo in the article – Deloitte working as Planner in Manchester? Doesn’t seem likely to me….

By Cynic

It is blatantly obvious that this is the perfect location for a large, quality city centre (fringe) park which the Manchester is crying out for.

Build up one one line of narrow but medium height office buildings along the busy ring road, with ground floor retail units which face towards the marina, and transform the space into public green space and open water, with the pollution and noise of the road cut out.

By AncoatsResident

Sounds like a good idea. However I feel t needs to provide adequate parking and also GREEN SPACE. There is not enough if this around the area

By Robbie

If Manchester is serious about becoming more green and reducing air pollution the council should just turn this plot into a big beautiful park. Same goes for Pomona gardens. London has many great central parks and NYC has central park. Large plots like these are rarely available and once built over they will never be cleared again for a park. Think long term not medium term please.

By Jonny

@Jonny…yeah lovely, a big ‘very noisy’ park next to the Mancunian Way…how delightful

By Steve


Yeah you’re right lets fill it all in with concrete.

There’s way too many ‘noisy’ parks in Manchester

By Sarah

What about expanding the New Islington Marina and creating much needed GREEN SPACE in the city.

By Slacks

Yeah Steve you are right, parks should be tucked away down country lanes like they are in London, Paris and New York.

By Loganberry

The removal of the retail park has highlighted the need for green-space and breathing room for New Islington/Ancoats/Northern Quarter residents. The intense construction on the marina has heightened stress for this entire area, making travel between New Islington and Ancoats tedious and unpleasant. The wildlife, which give a unique calm, have been stressed to the point that resident swans and geese are abandoning their nests, without hatching their eggs. I suggest that any new construction must include a way to enlarge the green-space, including trees, benches and hillocks for picnics. Humans can’t thrive on a steady diet of buildings.

By John in New Islington

@steve – you don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s nowhere near Mancunian way!
The only noise would be from Gt Ancoats St, and a line of office/shops would block that out.

By Paul

Agree with lots of the comments for wanting more green space. And why not?
Also agree with everything unimpressed says.

By Adam Ash

This is the perfect location for a large, quality city centre (fringe) park which Manchester is crying out for and most European cities have. Bikes. Ducks. Green space.

Build up one one line of narrow but medium height office buildings along the busy ring road, with ground floor retail units which face towards the marina, and transform the space into public green space and open water, with the pollution and noise of the road cut out. Do it because you can and should.

By Todd

The one opportunity to create a park and more dreary office blocks.

By Elephant

The loss of the green land around New Islington Tram stop is poor. This area encourages wildlife, is used as a recreational area in the summer and is a welcome respite from the concrete.
If you agree/ oppose the planning permission to build in this green space of which Manchester has very few.

By MissVeeBee

Is it just me that thinks the New Islington Free School was ill-thought?

As nice as the building is it takes up a huge area. Given the location in a densely populated area seems like they could have made better use of the land at the school. e.g. put the car park underground, playground on the roof? And then you could fit in a doctors surgery, expand the new islington marina park..etc?

For context the school site footprint is larger than Albert Square.

By Rob

To everyone saying this needs to be turned into a park: the council paid tens of millions for this site.

I would love a park as much as the next mcr resident, but plowing £XXm of public funds into a park (plus the actual costs of renovation) is better spent elsewhere.

By Lets be reasonable

I think investing millions on green space is reasonable for Manchester City Centre.
Aside from further pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.

Manchester needs a big park in the city and we’re running out of large sites. Mayfield provides a nice mixed use space, but we need something on a much bigger scale.

By Dingaling

I hope this is actually designed by someone who owns more than a ruler.

Also agree with the comments on green space; why shouldn’t we?

By Acelius

Let’s have a nice park. For people and family’s to play walk their dogs have picnics a place to do exercise in the outdoors. Not everywhere has to be offices or apartments. Let’s keep it green and help the environment

By Pravesh Patel

Public Park? has anyone walked through Piccadilly Gardens lately?? this area if it became a park would very quickly become a no go area full of drug users, the homeless and the epicentre for anti-social behaviour. Get real !! we struggle to manage open spaces in Manchester unless they are privately owned(Spinningfields being your prime example)..

By Realist

The problem is we have a left wing government disguised as Conservatives and a very left council which allows people to behave like animals.

By Floyd