The developers of the £1.4bn Manchester mixed-use scheme are starting to scout the market for pre-lets and financing for the first commercial offering, 320,000 sq ft of offices due to start on site this year.
Large office requirements in the Manchester market at present include those of Disney UK, government body Network Rail, which is looking for 100,000 sq ft, Bosch, Costain and others. Such names would be of interest to Mayfield, said Richard Upton, chief executive of developer U+I, part of the consortium delivering the scheme.
“We know several companies are looking for sizeable office space in Manchester at the moment and we are confident in the levels of demand for the high-quality office space we are going to provide,” Upton told Place North West in an interview.
The Mayfield Partnership, comprising U+I, LCR, Manchester City Council and Transport for Greater Manchester, secured planning consent for the first phase of its redevelopment of the 24-acre Mayfield depot near Piccadilly Station last February.
The first phase includes the city’s first public park in decades, construction of which is underway, as well as a 581-space multi-storey car park and 319,900 sq ft of commercial space across two buildings, The Poulton and The Republic.
The smaller 75,000 sq ft Poulton on Baring Street, named after 19th century industrialist George Poulton and designed by Bennetts Associates, will be the first office building to start this year and groundworks are being undertaken to prepare the site, according to Upton. The Republic, designed by Morris+Company, will span 244,000 sq ft across 13 storeys.
Once the offices are underway, the Mayfield Partnership will start to plan and design public realm and the first set of buildings to be constructed above the depot, which will form the second phase of the scheme.
In the interim, the partnership is looking to assemble the remaining funds needed to deliver the first phase. Last August, the Government announced a £23m grant to Mayfield to fund construction of the 6.5-acre public park.
Upton said the paperwork required to secure the cash was completed at the end of last year and the consortium is spending “£1.5m every month on opening up the subterranean River Medlock [that flows under the depot] to create the park at Mayfield”. The park is expected to complete in the first quarter of 2022.
In the coming months, the consortium aims to begin talks with lenders to secure development finance for the offices and car park. The gross development value is around £100m, according to Upton, and the partnership may look to finance half of that, although the exact amount is still to be decided.
“We believe demand is strong in both the global and European capital markets for large-scale mixed-use partnership projects, and Manchester’s demand and supply metrics are also strong, so we are hopeful we can secure what we need,” Upton said.
Also this year, the Mayfield Partnership will look to reinstate as soon as possible the ‘meanwhile’ uses for the site that help to attract people to the area and create a buzz around the development. Last summer, Escape to Freight Island, an outdoor market and music venue, was hugely successful in the months after the first Covid lockdown ended, Upton said. But subsequent restrictions have forced the venue, like so many others, to close.
The newly appointed chief executive of U+I, who replaced Matthew Weiner this week, also told Place North West that U+I is looking at two additional development opportunities in Manchester, as part of a drive to refocus its efforts on regeneration rather than investment assets.