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.